Battle Lake Design Group creates modern design from a century-old practice.
“Edmontonians are sometimes in denial that we have winter here,” laughs Chris Buyze, a partner at Battle Lake Design Group. It’s an attitude his sustainability-minded design firm rebels against with their residential straw bale construction projects, which place tightly compressed bales of straw between the wall frames of a home. The design results in two and a half times the insulation value of materials used in conventional homes, not to mention a higher fire resistance. The century-old design practice had immediate appeal to Buyze and his business partner, who incorporated the idea into BLDG—only a year old at the time—after attending a workshop on the subject in 2004. “We wanted to really figure out how we could live successfully for six months of the year with snow and cold,” Buyze says. Today, they’re one of Western Canada’s leading forces behind the practice, having standardized the technology to make it easier for any builder to execute. Straw bale construction isn’t BLDG’s only trick, though: they also use high-quality windows for passive solar gain, and make the most of natural materials like concrete and local Alberta wood. The result? A modern design that looks as warm and welcoming as it feels.