5 Things to Consider when Building with Straw Bale
Straw bale building offers unique design opportunities, with the use of natural materials and a relatively sustainable construction process. We love straw bale for its thermal stability (from high mass and insulation value), compostability, and the fact that it is often a locally availableagricultural byproduct. Based on our experience, here are a few things to keep in mind when considering building with straw bale:
1. Make the most of unique design opportunities
Building with straw bale offers unique design opportunities, and overall, an organic aesthetic.Thick walls create a sense of grounding, earthiness and solidity which stand in contrast to the thin openings of windows, doors, or window walls. Plastered interior walls have a natural unevenness which also bring warmth and softness to the space.
2. It’s not necessarily cheaper or more sustainable
Though straw bales are an agricultural byproduct that can bepurchased at a relatively low cost, the unusual structure and complex process may be more costly and require more non-renewable materials than traditional building methods. For example, a third more concrete might be needed to create a foundation that is wide enough to accommodate the width of the straw bales. To decrease the construction footprint and use of materials, explore techniques for minimizing the depth and width of the foundation (if made of concrete). Straw bale buildings can be designed to address these challenges while providing the thermal stability and long-term energy efficiency they are known for.
3.The simpler the better (in terms of your wallet and ecological conscience)
The simpler the geometry of the structure, the more economical and ecologically sustainable the process and product will be. Generally speaking, smaller structures with a simple layout can be made using a load-bearing straw bale structure. Load-bearing straw bale structures (as opposed to post and beam structures which use straw bale as an infill) cut down on the complexity and the amount of wood needed for construction.
4. Choose your location, resources and site carefully
The local geography, topography, nature of the soil, hydrography, surrounding resources and expertise all impact the feasibility and cost of straw bale construction. An important consideration is the availability of experienced local craftsmen, as well as materials that can be sourced locally. Using alternative building materials requires a more specific knowledge base and usually more involvement throughout the construction process.
5. Consider climate
Moisture is a central concern. To avoid mold and decomposition, particular precautions must be taken in each climate. In temperate climates, the extra mass from straw bale creates thermal stability, keeping the structure cooler in the summer and warmer in the winter, while maintaining long term efficiency.
Take a look at our Strawbale Getaway project in Crestone, Colorado and find out more about our community centered work, ecotourism, sustainable design, international reach and services on our brand new website!