Ecological Houses; building with straw

The Economist writes that straw buildings may be making a comeback, even if use of the material breaks local building codes.

Building in India entirely made from straw bales.

Building in India entirely made from straw bales.

[youtube=http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=RjNhJqnva3w]

Straw is an ideal building material for some types of buildings– it can be embedded with other materials to create adobe or stucco. You can achieve great insulation too using straw. It’s often a waste material so can be recycled for low-cost. Additionally, straw buildings are highly earthquake-resistent because the material is inherently flexible and absorbs seismic energy better than steel, brick or glass.

A look into the inner construction of a straw made house.

A look into the inner construction of a straw made house.

In some areas of the modern part of world, the benefits of using straw may not be realized because local building officials prevent its use. The Economist points to Californian officials who recently tried to dump heavy fines on Warren Brush, owner of a non-profit farm, for building straw-bale buildings on his property.

The placing and firming the straw bale walls.

The placing and firming the straw bale walls.

Perhaps with all the support from the USGBC, more local officials will see the utility of making low-cost earthquake-resistant material widespread. The Economist writes that straw has beaten other materials in earthquake tests. “A year ago, a test conducted at the University of Nevada’s large-scale structures laboratory showed that straw-bale constructions could withstand twice the amount of ground motion recorded in the Northridge earthquake that hit Los Angeles in 1994.”

It’s the combination of materials that make straw buildings highly resilient. Straw building begin with a foundation of gravel contained in plastic bags covered with soil mortar.

The walls are made of tightly packed straw bales held together with bamboo pins and lined with fishing nets. These are then coated with a clay-based plaster.

The walls are made of tightly packed straw bales held together with bamboo pins and lined with fishing nets. These are then coated with a clay-based plaster.

One structural engineer was able to create a two-story, three bedroom house with the straw mix. Additionally, in areas where there aren’t rules against using straw, there’s been a growth in projects, including a new post office in suburban Albuquerque and a Quaker school in Maryland.

The amazing results of straw applied to modern houses:

Woodenconstruction filled with walls made out of straw bales.

Woodenconstruction filled with walls made out of straw bales.

Modern styled villa with plastered straw walls.

Modern styled villa with plastered straw walls.

Handmade artistic styled 2 floor house of straw.

Handmade artistic styled 2 floor house of straw.

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There are 7 comments

  1. Kifus

    What an interesting post. One would always associate straw in buildings as being a fire hazard but I suppose if it’s covered up properly it would pose no risk. And now that the world is suffering so many earthquakes it would be good to promote this method.

    Have a great weekend!

  2. Juan Laporta

    Este forma de construir casas es un solución por los países que sufren de catástrofes. Son fuertes, flexibles y insolación. Genial!

  3. ieva jansone

    oh this is just amazing!! i new about a school in peru built this way..
    it’s quite genious, isn’t it? and looks so great – at least the projects you chose to show here…

    best regards,
    ieva
    (thank you for the comment! the sign is rather from a front door or gate door, i guess. was an ebay find ;)

  4. Désirée

    The last house was really in my style.

    Since straw has been used for roofs through history I’m, come to think about, it rather surprised that nobody thought of this “old” technique before.

  5. fruitofisrael

    I lived in a 3,500 sqft (350 sq meter) straw bale house for several years while staying with friends. They are awesome … very cool in summer and perfectly insulated in winter. There is NO fire hazard as the straw is so tight that there is no oxygen in the bales to burn so the straw would just singe black but not burn. They have a higher fire rating than required for industrial buildings in the USA !!! I loved the thick walls that would allow you to have nice places to “sit” in the window sills thus created.

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