[artist's concept]

Straw Bale!

The 1600 sq ft single storey building will be located on our land, just south of the village of Bishops Mills, and will be of straw-bale construction, load-bearing or Nebraska-style, with a concrete slab-on-grade foundation. This building will be:

Need for the building:

We presently hold a large volume of fluid preserved specimens (fishes, amphibians, reptiles, crayfish, and other invertebrates) and sizeable collections of skeletal material and unionid mussel shells in temporary storage. A large part of our present fluid preserved holdings arrived from Carleton University this spring, and is in urgent need of curatorial attention. This will involve topping up with isopropyl alcohol, providing with accessible, frost-free accomodation, sorting taxonomically, and retrieving data from damaged specimens and those that should go to other institutions.

Progress to date:

18 June: Submitted preliminary drawings to straw bale contractor Ben Polley of Harvest Homes Inc. After more information on regulations regarding environmental spill protection, Ben will redraw our plans and send them to his engineer for certification. Note: Last year 20 straw bale homes were built in Ontario. Ben has worked on 6 out of the 7 which were contractor-built (rather than owner-built).

22 June: Discussed our plans with our township building inspectors. We were given zoning and clearance information and an application form, as well as a list of "next steps" in the proper order. A building permit can be granted very soon after submission of engineered plans.

16 July: building site staked out, an engineer has visited the site and is preparing drawings of the foundation

19 July: Eastern Ontario Biodiversity Museum approves our ideas for the building and plans for partnership in the care of the collection.

20 July: artist's concept painting completed. Plans underway to incorporate a not-for-profit organization under the name "Fragile Inheritance Natural History".

August: Ben Polley's drawings completed, and with his help we locate sources of straw bales.

September:We begin to "top-up" the jars and prepare the collection for winter storage with technical assistance from the Canadian Museum of Nature, and the help of a part-time curatorial assistant hired for the EOBM through the Big Rideau Lakes Association. The building will be finished in the summer of 2002.


Front third of building contains a well-lit work space (three windows to south west, two windows to north east) with 7-foot ceiling. Interior wall separates this space from the collection, opening centrally in a 6-foot wide corridor clear through to rear loading doors. "L"-shaped counter in west corner of front workspace. In collection storage area, five 20ft long double rows of steel shelving, 6ft high. Cement floor will be poured to include piping for in-floor heating and three drains for emergency spill containment (low in-ground tank exterior to building). Water supply for washing only, collected from roof into counter-top tank (this tank and 2 sinks with grey water drains). Back-up heating will be electric base board units. Fuel for primary heating not yet decided (heat pump, outside wood furnace, electric water heater, propane-fired boiler?). Roof steel with ventilated ridge cap. Ceiling insulation will be double thickness (R40) to approximate the insulation of the walls. Exterior walls will be decorated with large, low relief images of a diversity of animal life, sculpted during application of the concrete "skin".

Questions about the building and offers of assistance (volunteer or donation) can be directed to us at


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