Building Green Homes with Straw Bales

Straw bale building has been refined since the three little pigs built their straw dwelling; the modern eco-builds utilizing this material are in no danger from the efforts of any huffing, puffing wolves – or any other forces, for that matter. Straw bale houses are durable, safe, healthy, affordable to build and great for the environment. Straw bale buildings are better than carbon neutral over the course of their lifetime and when they have reached the end of their useful lives, can be removed to leave no waste and no blot on the landscape. Could straw perhaps be the ultimate green building material?

If you live in an area where straw is produced naturally as a by-product of agricultural crops, then straw could be a great option for you. It is a material with many great properties that make it extremely useful in green building:

  • Straw bales are strong when under compression.
  • Straw bales have extreme thermal insulation values.
  • Straw bales are also excellent for acoustic insulation.
  • Straw bales are surprisingly fire resistant when correctly compressed and coated.
  • Straw bales can create pleasing and organic curves and thick walls for your new home.
  • Straw bales create a healthy environment and in conjunction with other green building materials, can help regulate air and moisture in your home.
  • Straw bales and attendant materials keep you home at a pleasant and steady temperature all year-round.

Best of all, it is cheap to purchase this natural waste product – sometimes you may be able to source it for next to nothing.

Straw bale buildings have been built all over the world. The oldest examples, in the United States, have stood for over 150 years, and it is thought that such houses will be able to stand for much, much longer than that. Straw bales can be used as wall-infill/insulation in a traditional wood framed house, or they can be used as the walls, in a weight-bearing capacity. Model homes around the globe have shown how straw bale construction can be adapted to suit a range of different climates and locations.

Bale walls are built up by stacking them together like large bricks if they are used as infill. If they are load bearing, then they are usually staked with wood and then tightened down with tension straps. A wooden structure spreads the load of the roof evenly around the bale walls. In either case, the bale wall is then clad, internally and externally. Commonly, the outside of the walls are covered in either lime or clay render, and the inside is given a thick coat of clay. These materials keep the bales absolutely dry, which is essential for the integrity of the walls and clay improves the thermal mass of the structure.

Those considering a green, sustainable build and trying to decide which materials to use in the construction could find building with straw bales a fantastic option.

About: Daniel Epega has provided advanced environmental consulting to many businesses throughout North and South America. Known for his special attention to structural nuance, he works meticulously to offer growth-minded solutions in the thorny wilderness of government regulation. Daniel Epega is an aspiring yoga teacher and tries to spend as much time outdoors as possible.

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