If you follow the story to the letter, it’s not such a great idea to build your house out of straw…especially if you’re afraid of the Big Bad Wolf. However, today’s straw homes are anything but simple huts and offer an environmentally friendly building solution.  In fact, there are two very distinct types of straw construction available: load bearing (straw-board) and in-fill (straw-bale).

Your next house in the making?

Your next house in the making?

But why would one even think of building with straw? Some reasons:

  • A renewable resource: straw is plentiful, easy to grow and easy to harvest. What’s more, it is easily biodegradable, so when it comes time for your house to ‘hit the hay’, the environment won’t be stuck with an inert plastic.
  • Insulation value: with the sufficient thickness, straw houses can rival some traditional insulation materials such as fiberglass and cellulose.
  • Flame retardant: you’re kidding, right? Nope, the high density of the bale actually limits the rate of fire spreading than typical wall construction.
  • Hand-by hand construction: easily formed bales can be created with minimal instruction and training, and can conform to a larger array of shapes and sizes than simple wood construction.

So, why would you NOT build a straw house? Some advocates would have you think it is the perfect solution.  However,  at  Autonomie, we always try to remain a healthy skepticism with any ‘green fad’ . While straw homes might seem like the perfect solution, there are some serious drawbacks to take into consideration:

  • Size: in order to get an adequate insulation value, you’re going to need thick walls…sometimes more than 18” depending on your climate. If you are choosing to live an urban lifestyle, which has its own inherently sustainable benefits, losing such precious square footage could be too much to handle.
  • Climate change priorities: While the straw is ultimately more biodegradable, most environmentally concerned scientists claim that climate change is by far our biggest concern, so much so that waste stream issues pale in comparison to the threat. In lieu of this, a more immediate solution may be to go with a less biodegradable product that will guarantee lower fossil fuel usage over the duration of your home’s life.
  • Extreme humidity: Improper wall construction and high humid climates can result in a serious mold and mildew condition. While simple in construction, straw bales homes should not be attempted by those with no experience.
straw bale exterior

straw bale exterior

Looking for more information? Here are some informational sites:

http://www.buildinggreen.com/auth/article.cfm?fileName=040301a.xml

http://www.toolbase.org/Home-Building-Topics/Green-Building/straw-bale-construction

http://www.toolbase.org/Home-Building-Topics/Green-Building/strawboard-panels

Know more about straw bale construction? We’re happy to hear your comments, especially if any of ours are mistaken. We always take pains to verify our information, but the construction industry changes rapidly and YOU might have the latest!  We look forward to hearing from you.