Straw bale Building

"Consider another skin surrounding you. One that, like your own skin, breathes. It works well with moisture; without letting it seep inwards. Its surface holds the moisture until it can then release it outwards. It could keep you warm when the air is cold outside and yet also keep you cool, when the air is warm."

This could be a description of how it feels to live in a well made straw bale house.

Straw bale building began over 100 years ago shortly after the introduction of the baling machine in America. There are still straw bale houses standing today that have stood the test of time and the elements.

There are two main types of build. One is the Nebraskan or load bearing design which I chose for our house. It literally means that the building is built out of straw bales like bricks, without any other supporting structure. Then the roof is fixed to a plate on top of the walls.

The second method is the infill method which involves building a wooden framework first and then using the bales to infill and insulate. Both methods work well.

Why build a straw bale house? Why not, I wonder after living in one for a few years.

Straw bales are one of the most low impact materials one can use in building. They offer a U value (insulation) of about 0.13, which is highly insulating. They natural and healthy to use, having a very low embodied energy and, well, offer a huge enjoyment factor in building for all ages, women and men.

It is a growing art and industry and one to celebrate as away forward for new builds and communities in this time; an alternative to the mass energy and waste created in building projects over the past fifty years since the concrete industry emerged.

In this time, we can be returning to the ways and wisdoms of natural materials; clay, lime, straw, not as a step backwards, but a movement forwards in a contemporary world with new skills and technology and an awareness of what is possible in building and creating with nature rather than against.

© Copyright 2008 Shiamh