Developing Responsibly - Treading Lightly










 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Environmental Responsibility

STRAW-BALE HOUSING

Straw-Bales - they are part of a sustainable house, lowering the demand for wood and depleting our forests, superior insulation, using resources that are frequently discarded, and supplying more demand and jobs for farmers.

One of the most important items to decide on before starting blueprints for your home is the material you will want to use to build your house. The following is a list of the benefits of using Straw-Bale and its insulation value. In our desert climate, having insulated walls and roofs are very important.

Straw bale r-55:

  • Provides superior insulation
  • Provides unique home designs
  • Straw is breathable, filters air
  • Straw is a renewable resource
  • Straw is durable and easily maintained
  • 18’ thick walls
  • Moisture control techniques
  • 6” foam insulated roofs


 

 

Building with bales of straw has become almost mainstream in some parts of the country, especially in the Southwestern United States. Straw is a renewable resource that acts as excellent insulation and is fairly easy to build with.

Erecting bale walls can go amazingly quickly, and does not take a lot of skill, but then the rest of the creation of the building is similar to any other wood framed house. In fact straw-bale houses typically only save about 15% of the wood used in a conventionally framed house. The cost of finishing a straw-bale house can often exceed that of standard construction, because of the specialized work that goes into plastering both sides of the walls. The result is often worth it though, because of the superior insulation and wall depth that is achieved.

Frequently Asked Questions About Straw-Bale

Will the bales rot?
Without adequate safeguards, rot can occur. The most important safeguard is to buy dry bales. Fungi and mites can live in wet straw, so it's best to buy
the straw when it's dry and keep it dry until it is safely sealed into the walls. Paint for interior and exterior wall surfaces should be permeable to water vapor so that moisture doesn't get trapped inside the wall. Construction design must prevent water from gathering where the first course of bales meets the foundation. Even if straw bales are plastered, the foundation upon which the bales rest should be elevated above outside ground level by at least six inches or more. This protects bales from rain water splashing off the roof.

Will pests destroy the walls?
Straw bales provide fewer havens for pests such as insects and vermin than conventional wood framing. Once plastered, any chance of access is eliminated.

Are straw-bale buildings a fire hazard?
The National Research Council of Canada tested plastered straw bales for fire safety and found them to perform better than conventional building materials. In fact, the plaster surface withstood temperatures of about 1,850° F for two hours before any cracks developed. According to the Canada Mortgage and Housing Corporation, "The straw-bales/mortar structure wall has proven to
be exceptionally resistant to fire. The straw bales hold enough air to provide good insulation value, but because they are compacted firmly, they don't hold enough air to permit combustion."


Straw-Bale House at El Dorado Ranch