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With colder temperatures upon us, many of us wonder if there is a warmer home to live in. Other than moving to a hotter country to find one, turns out there is… and it’s more natural, as well. It’s called a strawbale house.
A strawbale home is built with straw bales stacked in alternating courses, much like bricks, to form the walls. The bale walls are then plastered with 2 inches of cement stucco or a lime/earth plaster on either side to finish the walls. When finished a wall of exceptional strength, beauty and thermal mass is created.
There are two types of strawbale structures: post and beam, or load bearing. With post and beam homes, the straw bales are used as “infill” to form the outside walls and the posts and beams provide the structural frame. In load-bearing homes, the strawbale walls are pre-compressed with tensioned cables and then once plastered, the stucco-skin on the outside becomes the load-bearing component.
There are many advantages to this type of building. Stawbale homes have high R-values. R-value is a measure of thermal resistance used in the building and construction industry. The bigger the number, the better the building insulation's effectiveness. Studies by Canada’s Mortgage and Housing Corporation (CMHC) have shown that strawbale homes use 25-40% less energy to heat. R-values can be as high as R60 where most modern homes are R20.
CMHC found that strawbale walls exceeded the standards for fire retardancy and in fact gave them a rating equivalent to an industrial firewall.
Because the walls are made of a natural material, there is no concern for the effects of vapours from resins, glues and paints used in the building, polluting the interior air.
Since straw bales are a natural material harvested near the site, these homes use substantially less embodied energy to build and therefore contribute less to carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions. Embodied energy is the energy required to manufacture and transport building materials.
Unlike other alternative building methods, straw bale walls are easily integrated into modern construction practices as only the walls are different and, as such, the walls are easily adapted to all kinds of conventional foundation and roof building methods. Strawbale homes can look like any other stucco home and fit well in any neighborhood.
Strawbale homes can be very beautiful with large window wells, round-corners and many possible available exterior tints used in stuccoing. Because bales are malleable they lend themselves to homeowners creating unique beautiful spaces.
No moisture or insects
When built properly, there are no moisture or insect problems.
In addition, when you buy straw bales you will feel good about contributing to the income of the local farming community, using a renewable resource and saving 25 to 40% of your energy costs every year. 3
Russell Scott is the owner of True Source Seminars specializing in Self-actualization and ecological awareness seminars. For more info: e-mail him at: [email protected] and request a free copy of the booklets “Blueprint for Green Living” or “Living from the Inside Out”. For more info: read: “More Strawbale Building” by Chris Magwood and Peter Mack, New Society Publishers. Or click on: www.strawbalebuilding.ca. For workshops contact: www.TrueSourceSeminars.com.