"Really? Build a house with straw?"STRAW BALE HOME-BUILDING Build a House with Straw? Yes! Seriously. Building a house with straw may sound like a simple, primitive, or idealistic concept worthy only of ”Three-Little-Pigs” jokes and the imagination of children’s tales, however straw bale construction in the modern world is becoming serious business —and quickly moving into mainstream construction. Such construction has become accepted and more increasingly important as energy costs keep rising.
What is a straw bale house?A straw bale house is a house built with walls of baled straw. Ordinary oat, wheat, or barley straw is compressed into compact, square bales with a mechanical farm baler at harvest time. The bales are uniformly sized and amazingly strong and durable. The straw bales are simply used as building blocks, piled, and fastened into position, and the resulting wall takes the place of standard “stick” wooden framing. Straw bale construction is now fully accepted as a substantial, even superior method of construction under building codes in many jurisdictions in North America. Advantages of building with straw bales include:
- Strength. Straw house buildings are strong. The stucco-covered straw bales will easily meet all of the roof and structural weight requirements.
- Inexpensive to build. Straw houses can be built for as little as $40.00/square foot, depending upon design, other materials, far less costly to build than other standardized construction methods.
- Save building materials. Depending upon the specific method used, a straw bale home with load-bearing straw walls uses approximately 50% less wood and framing material than a conventional stick-framed home.
- Straw houses can be built upon many variations of foundations built of concrete block, wood, or upon a simple cement slab.
- A straw building is very heat-efficient, with straw- bale walls rating from R-40 to R-60 insulating value, depending upon the straw used an the size and quality of the bales. An 18″ thick bale provides an R-value of approximately R48. (2) A straw building is environmentally efficient, easier to heat and also much cooler in summer heat.
- Straw buildings are rated far higher for fire resistance than regular home construction and will easily pass a 2-hour fire exposure test and result in lower insurance costs.
- Straw is a completely renewable resource, coming from the process of growing wheat, oats, barley, or other similar grains.
- Vapour barrier plastic sheeting is not necessary. Straw bale walls “breathe” allowing the passage of moisture vapour. Interiors may be simply painted with a breathable paint to allow moisture to go through the walls.
- Insect or rodent problems do not develop. There is little or no food value in straw, and the walls are sealed with stucco and plaster.