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:
- 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.