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Straw bale construction

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Straw Bale Construction

Straw Bale House
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Information on Straw bale construction can be found at Wikipedia. What's this?
Helpinghandsjmp2.jpg This page is part of a project for PH261, a Clarion University class on the physics of energy and the environment. Please do not edit this page before Dec. 15, 2007 unless you are in that class, but feel free to make comments using the discussion tab.


Introduction

Straw bale construction has been around since the early 1900s. Many of the structures built back then are still standing and being used. Some examples of straw bale construction are homes, farm buildings, churches, community centers, etc.

Straw

Straw uses baled material from oats, barley, rice and others. It was traditionally the waste products that farmers did not till under the soil. Instead it was used as bedding or landscape supply due to its durability. It is essentially the dry plant material left over after a plant has been harvested for seed. The plant is no longer alive. Straw is a much cheaper product than straw.

Materials Needed

Straw bales are the key to straw bale construction. Wire mesh should be used to hold these materials together so they are are structurally sturdy. Sometimes a wooden frame is used to place your walls so you have a base as to what you are doing. Frames can be used to put windows and doorways into the building. After all is set, fiberglass stucco can be applied to the straw walls. After letting that set, your walls should be sturdy. Don't forget to account for plumbing and wiring as well. After your house is built, feel free to furnish it with whatever you want. Wooden floors can be put in as well as basements but be sure that your foundation is strong enough to hold. To learn about one man's construction try this article: [1]

Skills and Knowledge Necessary

Straw bale construction is essentially the same as building construction for a home. All you need to do is make sure your walls are sealed properly so that no moisture or oxygen gets in. Any contractor can be hired for this or you can do it yourself. One must be capable of reading blueprints and being able to run heavy machinery. Also, you must be able to understand the blueprints so that if a problem arises, you can read back and figure out what went wrong.

Technical Aspects

Experimentation with straw bale construction continues. A good deal of standardization and refinement in regard to techniques, tools, and associated materials is now appearing.

Estimated Costs

Cost all depends on the design of the building. Location is a main key to this as well. Questions that should be asked should be about regulations, building codes, structural sustainability, etc. Straw bale construction is much cheaper though in terms of wood foundations. This can be one of the most economical wall systems. Houses have been constructed for as low as $10.00 per square foot (floor area) to high end homes at $100.00 per square foot.

Frequently Asked Questions

What about pests?

Pests are more of an imagined concern than a real threat. Once the walls are properly plastered or sided, there is no way for bugs or rodents to get into the bales. If pests were to get inside, they would find it almost impossible to move in the densely packed bales. Termites and other pests pose more of a problem to conventional construction than they do to straw bale structures.

Do I have to design the house differently when using straw bales?

It is a good idea to know the size of the bales you intend to use before you start designing. That way, you can keep the modular unit of the bale in mind when laying out the plan. Bales take up more floor space than conventional walls, so use them to your advantage. Use window seats, wall cutouts, and flush mount cabinetry to increase the useable space within the walls themselves.

Should I be concerned about the straw getting wet?

Moisture concerns can be handled easily with proper design and construction methods. So long as the bales are installed when dry (moisture content of 14% or less) and are properly sealed within the plaster and protected from water infiltration, they will perform well. The adopted International Residential Code, Appendix M (“Straw Bale Structures”) has standards in place to accommodate this design and construction. Even if a building is heavily rained on, it will be fine as long as it is allowed to dry out. Problems arise when high moisture levels above 20%) are sustained for long periods of time. For more questions [2]

External Links

A World Leader in Straw Bale Education: http://www.strawbale.com/

A Sourcebook for Green and Sustainable Building: http://www.greenbuilder.com/sourcebook/strawbale.html#Define