This article appeared in TLS #59.
Turko Semmes is a licensed general contractor from San Luis Obispo County, California, and one of the foremost experts in straw-bale building techniques.
A graduate from the Architecture Department of Cal Poly State University in 1978 with a degree in Construction Engineering, he has been self-employed since that time, running a custom home building business specializing in energy efficiency and sustainable building techniques. Turko is a co-founder of the California Straw Building Association. He has built several custom homes, agricultural buildings, and wineries throughout central California. He has taught classes and workshops on sustainable building systems to community groups and to students at the elementary, secondary, and university level. He is recognized as an expert on passive solar design concepts and other energy efficient techniques, as well as nontoxic and sustainable building materials.
The Semmes southwest-style straw-bale home (pictured here) is nestled in the Los Padres National Forest in a setting that joins nature with natural building. The courtyard/pool area is an inviting setting filled with flowers and hand-painted artwork at the main entry door leading to Turko’s office and the family den. The lower terrace provides space for relaxing poolside with an outdoor shower nearby. The upper terrace is a covered outdoor cooking and dining area. The formal living and dining rooms and the master bedroom face onto the meadow with views toward the mountains of the Santa Lucia Range. The cool and calming color palette of the master bedroom contrasts with the bright and lively colors of the other living spaces.