RE: Straw Bale?
From: Lynn Nadeau (
Date: Mon, 27 Apr 1998 23:43:14 -0500
Strawbale can be cheap and it can be an agricultural waste product, but 
it isn't always. Here in the Pacific Northwest the straw is purchased 
from a competitive market with mushroom growers, horse farmers, and 
Japanese mat-making suppliers. 

The thick walls which for many people translate into a feel of home-y, 
substantial, special space can, in a cloudy damp climate serve to further 
cut the amount of sunlight that gets through a deep window.

The high insulative values of the walls need to be matched with a 
super-insulated roof, or your insulation is only as good as your roof. 

Unlike conventional construction, which can be undertaken almost 
year-round in the NW, strawbale needs to wait for a good weather window.

Much of the economy of strawbale construction is based on a lot of sweat 
equity. How feasible this is depends in part on which variety of straw 
bales are reasonably priced in your area. Some kinds come in bigger 
heavier bales than others, making them more of a challenge for amateur 
work-parties. On the up side, there are a great many strawbale 
enthusiasts -- Greenfire Institute and others-- and you may be able to 
get dozens of people to come pitch in for the experience (sometimes 
they'll even pay for a hands-on workshop experience).  It goes well with 
stucco, which can also be a work-party project.

Permitting varies. There are straight associations that have given their 
seal of approval, but local building departments may be unconvinced.  One 
reason we decided against strawbale for our common house was that no A3 
(assembly) public building had ever been permitted in strawbale in this 
town. We were afraid that even if we got someone in the City to say OK, 
that person could go away mid-project and their successor could pull the 
plug on us. 

Under our local circumstances, even the big honcho expert strawbale 
architect around here said we could expect it to cost as much or more 
than conventional construction.  

Note also that there is "load-bearing" strawbale and "in-fill" strawbale, 
 wherein conventional wooden framing has bales filled in for insulation 
and wall substance. 

Sooo,  be sure to check out your local situation, anyone who is 
contemplating the joys of strawbaling!

Lynn at RoseWind, Port Townsend WA    where all sorts of home 
construction systems co-exist: 
present homes include conventional stick frame, 2 of "rastra-block" 
(Ener-grid) blocks of recycled styrofoam and concrete, one with 
sheet-metal siding, 2 recycled buildings (each half of a former bingo 
parlor at the local fairgrounds), a geodesic dome, and --starting in a 
month or two-- a strawbale home.

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