Why Build with Straw Bales?

Straw-bale building is an exciting and environmentally-friendly way to build homes, classrooms, greenhouses, commercial buildings, and virtually any other structure. Using straw bales as super-insulating wall material creates houses that are much more energy efficient than conventional wood-frame buildings. These homes are comfortable in hot or cold weather, and save homeowners money on utility bills. If you add passive and active solar design the utility savings are even greater.

When covered in plaster or adobe, straw-bale walls are much more fireproof than wood-frame buildings — a significant benefit in California and other fire-prone areas of the country.

Straw had no nutritional value and is usually burned to prepare the fields for the next planting, adding to air-pollution levels. Building with the straw both clears the air, and puts an otherwise wasted product to highly-efficient use.

Giving back
to the world through sustainable building:

The Canelo Project
Casas Que Cantan

How Are the Bales Used in Construction?
When bales of straw are used as a building material, they can be used in two different ways: loadbearing, and non-loadbearing. As a loadbearing structural material, they are stacked into walls, and the weight of the roof rests directly on the bales. The first U.S. straw-bale houses, built in Nebraska around the turn of the century, were built in this manner, and a number of them are still standing win good condition today.

The non-loadbearing system, which we use most commonly in Southern California, uses a wood or metal post-and-beam frame to support the roof and is designed to meet the structural and seismic codes required by law. The bales of straw are used as in-fill, between the posts, and provide both the insulation and plastered-wall surfaces.

How Does the Cost of Straw Bale Construction Compare with Conventional Building?
Conventional building materials are non-renewable and the ecological cost is high. The financial cost is rising also, as fuel prices, manufacturing costs, and lumber-harvesting regulations continue to increase. Depending on your design and the number of amenities, building with straw bales can dramatically reduce the financial cost of your home or other building, while increasing its energy efficiency and decreasing its environmental impact.

The possibilities of straw as an alternative building material are unlimited. Straw bales have been used to build $7/square foot basic-shelter houses and $200/square foot luxury homes. Bale buildings hundreds of years old still stand around the world today. Straw bale construction is a choice you and the planet can live with — now and in the future.

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