Chris Buyze

Top 40 Under 40 2010

Photography Constantine Tanasiuk

Age: 31

Job Title: Partner and designer, Battle Lake Design Group

Why He’s A Top 40: He is a leader in the sustainable practice of building homes with straw bales, attracting clients in Alberta and B.C.

Key To His Success: His education – he has a major in abstract steel sculpture and visual communication design, with a minor in comparative religion. “The value of a liberal arts degree is overlooked in preparing you to be able to adapt to a changing society.”

Forget brick and wood. Chris Buyze has seen the future in housing, and it is straw.

As a partner in Battle Lake Design Group, Buyze is a leader in the construction of straw-bale homes, bringing to Edmonton this sustainable form of building that was once considered a back-to-the-land practice.

The company recently finished the first multi-family straw-bale project in Canada – a triplex called Mill Creek Flexhomes. On the day he was interviewed by Avenue, Buyze spent the morning laying sod at the project.

“We feel it’s important for designers to know the building process,” he says. “I’m intimately involved in every step of the process.”

A graduate of the design program at the University of Alberta, Buyze already had his eye on residential design when he was in school. Then he attended a workshop on straw-bale construction in 2004 and he was hooked.

Buyze is a firm believer in sustainable homes. High-quality straw-bale homes have two and a half times the insulation value of conventional construction, as well as higher fire resistance and better air circulation. But sustainable means high quality and 1,200 square feet of space. “It can’t be green and have five or six thousand square feet for two people.”

The construction of homes with straw bales is a niche market so far. But Buyze has played a role in bringing the technology forward so that a straw-bale home can be built using regular framing with off-the-shelf lumber, which makes the technology available to more homebuilders.

Aside from running a business, Buyze has been involved for six years with the Downtown Edmonton Community League and is now president of the group. In that time, he has helped build it up from 25 members to 300.

He is active in civic issues, including the Capital City Downtown Plan and the downtown arena debate. He has also been involved in planning a new park for the warehouse district.

And if he ever wants to sing the praises of straw-bale houses, he can – literally. Buyze is a former member of i Coristi Chamber Choir, an auditioned local choir that last year took him to the prestigious International Eisteddfod Music Festival in Wales.

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