Straw bale house construction is a building method first employed in the Sandhills of Nebraska more than 100 years ago. Since wood was limited and the bales stacked easily it was a practical use of their resource. Most of the early homes were built as load-bearing structures, where the roof bears on the straw walls. This method is still used extensively in areas such as the U.S. southwest. Here in the southeast we use the straw bales as infill after building a post and beam structure to hold the roof. The roof protects the straw during the installation.
Once installed the straw is covered with a lime &/or earth plaster inside and out. Straw bales are a wonderful insulator. When plastered the walls have an insulation rating of R30-35. And plastered straw bales are a Class A fire resistive material offering a 2+ hour fire wall. So a straw bale house is easy to heat and cool, non-toxic and is safer in terms of fire protection than many conventional building materials. And, naturally, they are beautiful.
Homes have been made from a variety of materials over the centuries, among them stone, mud and straw. Still to this day nearly half of homes around the planet are made from these materials. Here in the U.S. it has become common practice to make homes with materials such as plastics, foams and OSB. These materials can be bad for our health, bad for the environment or both. Natural building uses materials that are less harmful to our health and the environment,
- that have been created using little energy,
- that are available locally and
- that will return to the earth naturally, if the building is abandoned, without emitting PCBs, dioxins and other carcinogens into the environment.