Exercise 101 – Quin Sales-Lee

Straw Bale Homes

Straw is a waste product, and after the consumable portion has been removed, it is usually added to landfill or burned. By using it as a structural or insulation component in a building, agricultural waste can be made useful. Straw from wheat or rice is the most common form found, and can be found cheaply in agricultural regions, where it would make the most sense to build these structures (to avoid extensive shipping costs and the environmental impact therein).

ArchDaily has an article that highlights some of the benefits and drawbacks to this low-impact style of building.

The bales can either be stacked into traditional framing (timber is common) as insulation, or can be used as a self-supporting structure, called the "Nebraska" style. A series of compacted bales of straw can support enough weight to safely construct a long lasting one-story home.

There are some drawbacks, primarily the increased wall thickness of a straw bale house, and possible water intrusion. Typically straw bale structures are built on raised foundations, coated in stucco or cement, and are built with large eaves to prevent excess moisture on the outside walls. If moisture intrusion does occur, it can cause mold or structural issues.

Built well, a straw bale home can save an estimated 75% in heating and cooling costs, and is considered fire-safe. When a house has finished its useful life, it can be torn down and reincorporated into the land with minimal environmental disruption.


Comments (3)

  1. I never actually knew that straws are can be so useful in architecture that even houses can build using straws as one of the components. It look like from the image that this building also uses some straws as a significant material and that is really exiciting just by thinking about it, and thinking that some people use straws to drink Pepsi from In-N-Out and some use it for building structures for living.

  2. What a great article. Heating and cooling can add so much extra cost to a home or building owner. It’s really cool to see how sustainability is becoming a focus in architecture. I believe there is a straw bale cottage in Berkeley, here’s a link to the home: https://www.dsaarch.com/berkeley-cottage.

  3. It’s always exciting to see ‘waste’ products being made into anything but, especially when it results in something even more efficient and environmental than what is traditionally used for building materials.

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