The Piggy that built his house out of straw!
Straw bale houses are made when you stack hay bales as the structural building blocks of the home. The outside of the walls is finished with plaster, cement or adobe. It is a natural way to construct a building.
The first straw bale buildings were not meant to be permanent. One of the oldest recorded straw bale house was ate by cows in 1896. It was a schoolhouse in Nebraska. Building with straw bales died out after World War I when cement became popular.
One of the reasons we are looking into this type of construction is its ability to withstand high winds. Where we are moving, it is very windy. This type of construction is very cost effective, as straw is very cheap. It is fireproof, resists mold and is a highly effective insulator. This will mostly eliminate the need for additional heating and cooling for most of the year.
The insulation resistance of a wall is measured by something called an R-value. Straw bale walls have an incredibly high R-value, which makes the home incredibly energy efficient. Combined with concrete floors and window placement, it is possible to heat and cool the house using only the sun.
They also create a healthier environment than traditional homes. So many toxins are introduced into the air through paint, glue, and toxins embedded into the traditional manufactured materials used to construct homes. By using natural building materials, many allergy suffers and those with asthma have praised this type of construction.
Each year, 200 million tons of straw goes unused in the United States. Much of it is burned in the field because no one wants it, which means that straw is readily available in most parts of the country. This reduces the cost of transportation of materials to the build site. There is enough straw produced in North America to satisfy our residential building needs. It also lowers our impact on forests. The Lorax would be very proud!
In 2001, a British firm estimated that about 1000 new straw bale homes are being built around the world. Many of these houses, including ours, will be built with friends and family. Like old fashioned “barn raisings” building a straw bale house brings people together, tightening family and social bonds. This is something I think is missing in our society, we don’t talk to each other anymore and rarely do we get to build something together. Little experience is needed to stack hay bales and plaster the walls, and it goes pretty fast. Oh, and you get to use a chainsaw!!
Straw bale houses are also very beautiful, they look like regular houses and you really wouldn’t be able to tell the difference between a straw bale house and a regular constructed home unless you knew. Most hay bale houses are square or rectangular as straw bales are rectangular.
There are many resources out there that can help if you are interested in this type of construction. We feel this is a good choice and cost effective option for our family’s needs.