Turning “No because…” into “Yes if…”

In Trucking Toward a Better Future 20235 MinutesBy NZ Trucking magazineSeptember 15, 2023

By Lindsay Wood

Lindsay Wood offers up his first piece of inspirational thinking for the 2023 Trucking Toward a Better future competiton.

In Wolfsville, straw houses might be bad news if you need to resist a huffing and puffing predator. However, if you’re in a society that’s struggling less with heavy-breathing wolves and more with a construction sector with a ridiculous carbon footprint, then straw might be worth a closer look. Big bad wolf, eat your heart out…

(And, for the record, our typical houses currently have about ten times the carbon footprint we can afford. That’s budget-blowout on steroids.)

I expect lots of our readers heave heard of straw bale houses, featuring walls with stacked straw bales, encased in plaster coating, and with the lovely soft rounded look of old European stone buildings. But these are very much one-off and are not everyone’s cup of tea.

So, enter stage left a small team of Nelson architects, Magdalena Garbarczyk, Mathew Hay and Min Hall. They set about developing “Strawlines”, and capturing both the ultra-low carbon quality of straw (would you believe “carbon negative” – i.e. overall removing carbon dioxide from the air?), and its excellent thermal insulation into a modern “panellised” approach to building.

Now you don’t need me to tell you that using straw as a core material in building brings a raft of technical problems to mind. How can we be sure it won’t rot? Isn’t there a potential fire risk? Wouldn’t it be mouse-heaven if those little rodents snuck in (a bit of an irony, huh, if we’re worried more about mice than wolves!).

Wouldn’t it be easy to cave into the “nah, won’t work because…” approach, and diss the whole idea? But if we’re wanting to chase down creative new ideas – and chase them down we must if we’re to give our gtrandkids a half-decent chance of a half-decent future – then we’ve got to pivot away from “No because…” and embrace its opposite, “Yes if…!”

In fact, the mind shift to “Yes if…!” is a far bigger deal than the two short words might suggest, because it lets us acknowledge there really are problems, but then focusses on solving them rather than simply giving up and trashing an idea because of them.

So, the team at Strawlines have had structural calculations carried out, and hygrothermal analyses, (no, that’s not contemplating your navel while soaking in a hot pool, but the study of how to prevent humidity adversely affecting the panels), and built large-scale mock-ups of their system. They’ve even had a carbon assessment done (I know – I did it! And the results are impressively low carbon).

And I’m not the only one impressed with Strawlines. The judges at the international competition “Intbau” recently awarded them first place out of hundreds of entries. Go Strawlines!

So what might Strawlines offer the Trucking Towards a Better Future competition? Here are a few things that jump to mind:

  • Accept there’s a big problem, and that means it’s worth doing things quite differently.
  • Don’t ignore commonplace objects and materials.
  • Don’t let someone’s “Nah because!” attitude put you off! We’re much better at dumping on unusual ideas than celebrating them, but celebrate them we will at TTABF – and “Yes if” is much more likely to win a prize!

Finally, please don’t let that niggling fear of failure deter you, it can be a much bigger enemy than we might think. And the TTABF competition offers your ideas a truly safe place – we’re not going to dump on anyone, or any idea, and are far more likely to champion truly new and different thinking.

In fact, we really like the approach of Google when they ran their “GoogleX” think tank: “Try everything, even the insane ideas.”

So go on – send us some “insane” ideas and have a go at blowing the judges’ minds!

Visit nztrucking.co.nz/category/trucking-toward-a-better-future-2023/ for full details on how to enter, and to find more weekly inspirational updates!