Straw bale building has its origins in Nebraska, only about 100 years ago, after the invention of baling machines. Before that event of course straw was recognised for its building qualities in thatch roofing, and mixed with earth in cob- and wattle and daub walls.
Straw bale construction is almost mainstream in south western USA and is enjoying renewed interest from home builders who are conscious of its many qualities.
Many localities now have specific codes to allow you to realize your straw bale house plans. Fewer bureaucrats are huffing and puffing to blow your plans out of the water...
They are buildings where the walls are made of baled straw. The building usually possesses a timber or steel frame and the straw is used to fill the wall cavities. These are then sealed by rendering them with earth, clay or cement.
The straw's origins can be from wheat, barley, oats, rye or rice stalks. It is composed of cellolose, hemi-cellulose, lignins and silica. The more silica, like rice straw, the better its dryness and resistance to decomposition. It is not hay, which incorporates the grain heads. Straw is often burned by farmers or left to rot.
The two main categories: load-bearing and non-load bearing. Building authorities usually only allow non-load bearing construction.
Benefits Of Straw Bale Construction
There are many... What follows are 13 of them.
If you'd rather skip to see a short video of how to build with straw bales just play this:
Energy efficient home
Straw bay buildings are built in many climates. From temperate to tropical. The trick is to keep your straw absolutely dry when constructing and when in situ. Straw walls have about five times the resistance to heat transfer compared with a brick veneer wall. In practice this means that a well built straw home may not require any heating or cooling. Great savings!
For example, one straw bale home in Oregon records very comfortable interior temperatures of only 68-72 F (20C - 22C) even on 95F (35C) summer days. It has no air conditioning. Not needed.
Because your building blocks are large bales, construction can be surprisingly fast. But you must still lay foundations and build a frame!
Information on cost of straw bale building varies from just under to equal the cost of a similar conventional home to in excess of 20%. This is due to costs of specialized work like plastering and plumbing.
Ever been in a hay shed? Like hay, straw is wonderful at absorbing sound. No more annoying traffic background noise, especially when combined with sound-absorbing energy efficient windows.
Good Fire Rating
This is counter-intuitive, but straw bale constructions do not burn easily! They are extremely fire-resistant. In fact they possess about three times the fire resistance of a conventional home because the near airless, tightly packed bales lack a necessary ingredient for a roaring fire: oxygen.