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Strawbale - Building insulated homes with bales of straw.
Straw-bale building has burst onto the owner building scene with a vitality not matched since the early 70's when people were first introduced to the possibilities of adobe or pise building (building in mud).
Owner-builders (read...those of us with insufficient funds to compete in the rat-race) have come to realize that straw-bale building has some advantages that were not harnessed with mud-bricks.
Firstly, straw is a magnificent insulator. Mud is a conductor. Straw-bale houses are said to be super-quiet, and extremely well insulated. In fact it has been said that they are so good that it is easy to over-heat a house, even in winter.
Secondly, straw-bale houses are even easier to erect than mud-bricks. The infill walls go up faster, and the unit cost per sq. metre is almost certainly lower.
Thirdly, straw bales are easily shaped, trimmed, cut, and re-sized. For example: Need a new window? Get out the chainsaw and cut a hole in the wall, and put the window in. Chainsaw building was never possible with mud-bricks. http://www.possumpages.com.au/walden/straw.htm
Paul's Strawbale Home Page
If you're interested in just looking, have a peek at the various pictures I've included throughout the site, especially those in the "photo album". If specific information about building is what you want, just click on which ever button lists the information you might want. The aim of this site is not to disseminate highly technical, nor really specific detail. Rather, this is the story of our house construction. If you want details or research, email me or buy the Strawbale House book, or get the free research materials from CMHC and NRC, or get in touch with someone like Linda Chapman, of Fibre House Inc, in Ottawa.
My wife, Naomi, and our four children and I live just outside of La Broquerie, Manitoba, Canada, 4 miles east of Steinbach. We began our project during the summer of 1998, after comparing building costs, advantages of building with strawbale, and after buying a gorgeous few acres of oak forest. We likely didn't fully appreciate the immensity of the project we were jumping into. However, here we are, three years later, and I have to say, "I'd do it again in a flash!" You'll see why when you read on and have a look at some of the pictures of our strawbale house and a few others I've visited.
Straw is an excellent building material: It is inexpensive, readily available, and easy to work with. If you could stack blocks and smear mud when you were a kid, you can build a straw house!
Straw is a RENEWABLE RESOURCE: It takes one season to grow, versus many years for a tree. It is considered a waste product in the grain industry: Burning off fields is a major source of air pollution, so building with straw helps the planet in more ways than one.
Building with straw bales became popular in the midwest with the advent of the mechanical baler in the late 19th century, and some of those houses are still standing. http://www.timetobale.com
Straw bale construction uses baled straw from wheat, oats, barley, rye, rice and others in walls covered by stucco. Straw bale are traditionally a waste product which farmers do not till under the soil, but do sell as animal bedding or landscape supply due to their durable nature. In many areas of the country, it is also burned, causing severe air quality problems. It is important to recognize that straw is the dry plant material or stalk left in the field after a plant has matured, been harvested for seed, and is no longer alive. Hay bales are made from short species of livestock feed grass that is green/alive and are not suitable for this application. Hay is also typically twice the price of straw. http://www.greenbuilder.com/sourcebook/strawbale.html
Straw bale building construction has recently become popular with people looking to build an inexpensive, ecologically sound house or other structure. Straw bale construction was devised in the mid-1800s in the Sand Hills of Nebraska, and some straw houses are still standing in the American midwest. Such houses have been built recently in the United States for as little as $4 per square foot.Straw bale construction is not just straw bales, of course. Left exposed to the elements, a straw house would soon be a sodden mass of rodent-infested fibre, or a heap of ashes resting on the foundation. The trick to preserving a straw house is to stucco it – inside and out – with concrete. This gives a level of fire resistance double that required in Canada. http://www.life.ca/nl/45/strawbale.html
So you'd like your own homestead, but cookie-cutter 'burbs give you the willies. Well, here's the Straw Bale Construction antidote. The cure for all those ugly Tract Mansions? Might be building houses out of materials we live close to. The cure for big heating and lighting bills? Might be paying attention to the sun and the lay of the land. The cure for owing the rest of our lives to the bank? Might just be to knuckle down and do some or all of it ourselves. Let Chizz and Pignin lead the way... http://www.moxvox.com/straw.html
This is The List if you really want to pursue an online Straw Bale obsession. Compiled by MJ Epko, a SB Obsessive if there ever was one, it will take you all over the world in search of all things SB. It's huge, so either pick a section or use the subject index below. Beware, though. MJ was last seen in the vicinity of the Geographical Center of the US, hay saw in hand. It could happen to you too! http://mha-net.org/html/sblinks.htm
Straw Bale Construction Web Information
Straw Bale construction has over 100 years experience in America. Recently many new efficient homes have been built with bales of straw. This page brings some of the net available information together for educational purposes. http://solstice.crest.org/efficiency/straw_insulation/index.html
Strawbale Design & Construction Consultants: Gary Nicholl founded StrawBale Australia in 1996 after almost a decade of research into the revival of straw bale construction in North America and Canada. http://www.strawbaleaustralia.com/
Straw bales have been used to build houses in the U.S. for over a century. Two types of strawbale construction have historically been built: Nebraska style, where the stacked bale walls bear the weight of the roof structure; and post-and-beam construction, which is then infilled with straw bales. Modern use of strawbales in house construction also uses a third, mixed method, which combines the two methods mentioned above with standard stud construction. Mixed construction strawbale houses may have one post-and-beam wall, two Nebraska style wall, and one stud wall. http://www2.whidbey.net/lighthook/sb.htm
Since shelters have been created, straw and grasses have been used in conjunction with a variety of building methods to provide safe, dependable, and comfortable housing in many climates and environments. Walls made from tied bundles of long lengths of straw, stacked in mud mortar, have been constructed for centuries throughout Asia and Europe. Another ancient method, also employed in Asia and Europe, used compacted loose straw coated with a clay slip for walls. Those methods and materials remain in use today, their use declining only where modern construction methods, materials, and codes have become commonplace. http://ifib41.ifib.uni-karlsruhe.de/studis/straw_bale/gruppe_0/history.html
I've always been interested in energy efficient housing. I guess growing up in Fresno, CA with parents who believed that the air conditioner was an evil thing (same with the heater...at least until us children moved out...) made me wish I lived in something that was put together with at least some consideration for the comfort of the occupants. http://itsa.ucsf.edu/~mrd/strawpage.html
Gaia or Gaea is the terra mater, or mother earth, in Greek mythology. Gaia Construction is a company devoted to bringing affordable, sensible housing within reach of the common person. We provide service as a function of who we are, not as a slogan or a selling point. This is who we are. http://www.thebarbecuepit.com/tom/gaia.html
Wasatch Academy - Strawbale House
Strawbale housing is a 100 year old method whose time has come.