Straw as a building material has been used for thousands of years. Because of its durability and insulation properties, it is still popular as a material used in roof thatching.
Straw is a by product from the agricultural production of grain and for that reason it is readily available. In the past straw was used on farms for thatching and for bedding animals. With with the mechanisation of agriculture in the 19th Century straw became more abundantly available and surplus to requirements resulting in methods such as unsustainable burning being used for its disposal
Mechanisation however introduced the baling of straw and straw became transportable and stackable. The first strawbale houses were constructed by settlers in the plains of Nebraska in the USA in the 1800’s and many of these are still standing to this day.
You can be pretty much assured that no two straw bale houses will be exactly the same.
Straw is a natural readily available renewable material. It is affordable building material which in many countries it is regarded as a waste by-product from the harvesting of wheat, rice, oats and rye so the only cost might be the transportation.
(Photograph source www.strawbale.com)
There are two main construction methods involved in strawbale building:
- Post & Beam: A frame is first constructed of wood, steel or even concrete and this is then in-filled with straw and rendered ideally with a breathable plaster or clad in timber
- Load bearing: The straw bales are stacked with a plate on top which is fastened with metal or other rods down to the foundation. The straw bales are then compressed by the weight of the roof
There are many benefits to straw-bale construction.
- Straw bales are readily available in most countries where there is agricultural productions.
- Generally straw bales are inexpensive and are therefore an affordable ecological material
- Straw bale construction is ideal for the self builder. It is very much a hands-on method of construction so attractive to DIY enthusiasts. Many of the skills necessary can be learned by volunteering on a construction project.
- Straw bale homes are breathable and naturally warm.
- Strawbale construction lends itself perfectly to irregular shape houses
Before deciding on building with straw it is important to check with local planning authorities and check out the building code or regulations for the region.
Stawbale house can be found in many countries. They are naturally cold in warm climates and naturally warm in warmer weather. There are a number of straw bale houses in Ireland but as with other natural material be prepared for the effects of persistent driving rain. Always best to talk to strawbale home owners before you proceed.
Andrew Morrison from Strawbale.com runs courses in strawbale building as well as supplying all the material you might need to tackle your own straw bale building project. Check out the links below for information on Post & Beam and Load Bearing Construction
Post and Beam DVD , Load Bearing DVD