Why build a
straw bale house? See the benefits of having a straw house and various
methods of construction in straw bale housing. Hopefully by the end of
this article on having an eco friendly building,
these benefits will be obvious.
I remember seeing people first build a house of straw while
watching the BBC's Grand Designs with Kevin McLeod, and I was rather
fascinated. This particular episode focused on a rather hapless British
couple who hadn't had much luck living in France, and this was their
Whether they were more successful second time around is
inconsequential, but I was rather intrigued to see that their choice of
material were straw bales used as a filler for a large steel frame. In
the end their straw house looked rather nice, and you couldn't tell
from the outside that it as any different to the more conventional
houses surrounding it.
The Benefits of Building a
Straw Bale House
Which brings me back to my first question? Why do people go down the
route of building a straw bale house rather than conventional brick and
mortar, stone or wood?
Well, first of all straw
has 5 times more insulation capacity than
, which reduces your need for artificial
building in straw is far cheaper
than bricks and mortar, or even wood and
can build such a house using straw in
half the time
straw has great acoustic insulation, making it a
very quiet house
even if you are built close to a busy
perhaps one of reasons why people build straw bale houses is because it
is an eco-friendly way of building a house. It is better for the
environment, and for the climate as a whole.
year, millions of tonnes of unused straw is burnt, releasing
immeasurable amounts of carbon dioxide into the atmosphere.
Building with straw saves the straw from burn-off and
lessens the amount of carbon dioxide being pumped into the atmosphere.
Another advantage of building with straw is that is is a non-toxic
product. It is just like wheat, barley, oats or rye.
Straw Bale House
strawbale form the framework of the home and are compressed until they
are virtually airtight. After they have been placed, they are then
As the bales have been compressed every home that has been
built using straw bales also means that it is a good resister to fire.
In Australia, for example, straw bale houses are given a 2-hour fire
Picture courtesy of John
When you have a conventionally built house you aways
have a cavity wall between the outer and inner
bricks. When you have a
fire in the house the fire uses the brick cavity as a path to travel
along, whereas, with the compressed straw bales there are no free
spaces for fire to travel along within the wall structure.
With straw bale houses you don't have to build
it off a concrete floor like a conventional build. Because the finished
walls of a straw bale wall is 500 mm this allows you more leverage as
to the type of floor you want to build off as its load is spread over a
For those of you who care about the environment you would be opting for
the wooden floor option. And I would agree. Not only because
Wood is a
sustainable resource, but also because wooden floors are certainly a
lot easier on the knees than concrete, and it is cheaper to build!
Typically "field-bales", bales created on farms with baling machines
have been used, but recently higher-density "pre-compressed" bales (or
"straw-blocks") are increasing the loads that may be supported. Field
bales might support around 600 pounds per linear foot of wall, but the
high density bales bear up to 4,000 lb./lin.ft., and more.
The other decision you will have to make is whether you want to build
the house like the couple in France with a steel frame, or even a
timber frame, and using the bales as infill, or using the bales as
Methods of Straw House
Method 1 of Straw House Construction
There are various methods of construction. For the first method, the
weight of the roof is supported by a ring beam, which extends around
the perimeter of the building and does away with any lintels needed
later on for window and door openings. Beams and posts are held upright
by bracing and then the bales are are inserted into the structure.
Method 2 of Straw House Construction
With the second method the straw bales carry the load of the roof. Here
a timber top-box is built which extends around the perimeter of the
building, not just across the straw bale walls and includes lintels for
any door or window openings wider than 1.5 m. It is this that the roof
is fixed to.
Method 1 of Straw House Construction
The third method involves a structural infill. Here the weight of the
roof is supported on posts and beams, but there is no permanent bracing
to support the structure in place. Instead it relies on the straw bales
to keep the structure upright. Any bracing that is put in place is only
temporary and is removed once the building is secure.
Of course each method has its own merits and some are more expensive
than others, with the load bearing method, being the cheapest of the
three options. But only you would know which method would suit you and
meet your needs.
BOOKS ON STRAW BALE
HOUSES AND CONSTRUCTION
Do you Have a Straw Bale House?
you have a straw bale house which you have either built or got someone
else to build why don't you tell us about it and send us some pictures?
You can do this in the invitation below.
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