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Straw Bale House Design

Straw Bale House Design

Depending upon where we live on the earth, we will find different climates, as well as different resources and methods for building construction.Working with the tools, materials, and techniques most appropriate to the local area when we build our houses can save both money and energy. Straw
bale construction is one such building method, and one that is highly energy efficient, safe, inexpensive, and easy to work with.

  • Rediscovery of this century-old building technique may prove to be the answer to our current search for low-cost, energy-efficient, sustainable housing. Inexpensive, owner-builder friendly, fire-resistant, highly insulative, and ecologically benign, straw bales are revolutionizing home construction methods.
  • The idea of building anything permanent out of straw may seem laughable. Yet traditional cultures throughout the world have used straw, grasses, and
    reeds as building materials, usually in combination with earth and timber, to create shelter for thousands of years. It must work!
    o So long as they are protected from moisture, and their structural
    characteristics are taken into account, straw bales can be used to build structures that are attractive, safe, and durable.
  • Straw bales are made from the leftover stems of harvested grasses after the seed heads have been removed. Hay bales are made from grasses that are harvested green with the seed heads included. Both can be used for building,
    but because hay is valued as an animal feed, it is much more expensive than straw.
  • The embedded seed heads in hay can also attract vermin. Straw, with no
    nutritional value, is quite unattractive to mice and rats.
  • As lumber prices rise and quality declines, environmentally conscious
    builders are looking to less expensive alternative building materials. At
    same time, plagued by poor air quality, California and other states are
    banning agricultural burning of straw because it creates a major air
    pollution problem. If straw is baled rather than burned, a waste product can
    be turned into one of the most promising alternative building materials:
    straw bales.
  • Since straw matures in a matter of months, millions of tons of these
    sustainable building materials are produced annually, compared to the
    it takes for trees to grow large enough for the sawmill. Straw bale
    construction is a win/win solution for farmers and builders.

Read more: Crafts & Design, Materials & Architecture

Excerpted from the Real Goods Solar Living Source Book, edited by Doug Pratt and executive editor John Schaeffer.Copyright (c) 1999, Real Goods. Reprinted by permsision of Chelsea Green Publishing Company and Real Goods.
Excerpted from Real Goods Solar Living Source Book, edited by Doug Pratt and executive editor John Schaeffer.

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Annie B. Bond

Annie is a renowned expert in non-toxic and green living. She was named one of the top 20 environmental leaders by Body and Soul Magazine and "the foremost expert on green living." - Body & Soul Magazine, 2009. Learn Annie's latest eco-friendly news on, a website dedicated to healthy and green living.

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The Real Goods Solar Living Sourcebook

The Sourcebook remains the best introduction to energy-efficient technology for common folks.
-Whole Earth Review

From novices to pros, this book explains renewable energy and efficient building practices. Great reference to start design and cost estimation from each section. One of the best features of this book is the addition of the National Electric Code for RE systems. It's possible to pick a building material to build a house, design a solar electric system, decide on appliances, determine the use of a greywater system, and more from 562 pages. No more looking up pages on the net!buy now


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10:33AM PDT on Apr 15, 2013


4:11PM PST on Dec 10, 2012

I've had a straw bale shed and it's an amazing, durable structure that's never too warm or too cold. Would love to put the building technique to wider use!

12:28PM PDT on Sep 25, 2012


10:52PM PDT on Aug 26, 2012

wish I had one!

10:40PM PST on Nov 13, 2011

I was in a BEAUTIFUL straw bale house several years ago. After seeing it, and as a tradesman myself, seeing the design versatility of the medium, this is what I'm going to eventually build my own house out of, without question.

12:46AM PDT on Aug 12, 2011

Thanks for sharing.

12:23PM PST on Nov 19, 2010

Saw a great chicken coop made out of straw..for his hens in the winter..

6:23PM PST on Feb 23, 2009

i think straw bale is cool too...look on youtube and search straw bail building...lots of videos...i'm still looking. i really love earthships!

10:33AM PST on Feb 20, 2008

does anyone know how this type of building would hold up in a very humid region and how it would be with cockroach resisting?

12:05PM PST on Jan 14, 2008

straw bale houses in South Africa aren't mainstream, but are being built

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Disclaimer: The views expressed above are solely those of the author and may not reflect those of
Care2, Inc., its employees or advertisers.

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