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I write from Scottsdale, AZ -- Valley of the the Sun. A few years ago, I visited a training stable which had built a straw bale place to house a groom. A horse owner had moved in, however, and found it clean and quite adequate. Tiny, not much light because so little window space, stuccoed inside and out. But in the soaring Arizona summer heat, with no air conditioning, you could step inside and it was comfortably cool. The insulation factor is amazing. The only negative I heard was that after complying with all building codes, it wasn't as cheap as they had hoped. It was, nonetheless, an impressive little place.
I have built three straw bale homes over the years for clients and there are pitfalls depending on which type of straw bale construction method you use. First is non load bearing which is where the straw bales are not used to carry the load of the roof structure, and are just used to infill between supports. The other is a load bearing type of which I don't recommend period.
Obtaining a permit is more difficult as this not a standard building practice as well as obtaining financing for the project for the same reason. As for the cost of constructing one, they are more expensive period, for many reasons. But I'm need to head off to work and will continue this after I get back home this evening. If your serious about constructing one of these homes please post your questions and I'll do my best to answer them.
For related info please checkout the Good Entrepreneur contest broadcast in Europe by CNBC. One proposal was for ModCell™: ModCell™ is a prefabricated straw or hemp cladding system that can be used in housing and commercial buildings. ModCell™ is one of the first products to make large-scale, carbon-negative building a commercial reality. Other ideas included a process to recycle waste water. See site for info:
All building materials are innovated, used for years. I don't want to live in straw hut like our ancients. However, I like the idea to use straw syntheticated to make building products. Anything on this earth is counted, inventoried.
Well, this all looks fine and dandy...until a big bad wolf comes along.
He's gonna huff, and puff, and....well you know the rest.
Building Green I think is great. However, my concern is that many areas have building codes which many of these techniques would not be allowed by the governing authorities. Also, if the hay gets wet and you are not aware of the issue then you have a problem on your hands. How easy would it be to correct he decomposition, mold, and infestation? That would also pose as a possible health issue. My thoughts are that is could work ok in areas which do not get much rain and are dry climate areas but for how long. The typical stick built house lasts on an average of 75 years if no modernization and minimal repairs are made. Growing up on a farm and being familiar with playing in a hay barn, it was great fun, until it got wet and the decomposition and mold set in. Also the rodents and insects like it too. hmmm - interesting concept though. However, I personally would choose other methods that would provide better means of longevity.