Friday, May 15, 2009

Let me introduce myself

This blog is going to be the documentation of a straw bale experiment.

I have heard and read many wonderful things about building with straw, so I thought I would give it a go. I want to find out if it is possible to build a small dwelling in three months with a tight budget, and see if that building is able to survive damp Viginia weather for a year.

At his point I have no experience building, but I've done a lot of reading. I'll share with you what I understand now, and the rest of the blog will be documenting my actual experiences.

Straw Bale building, for those of you who are not familiar with it, is a method of construction that uses straw bales as insulation for the building, and possibly as the structure of the walls as well.

A house under construction from

My own interest in straw building came from many directions. For one, it seems simple. You stack up bales, add a roof, some windows and a door, cover it with plaster, and you have a house. It is supposed to be cheap. Since the process is understandable, I can do it my self, which means I can build a house without paying labor. Straw is relatively cheap, dirt is free, so earthen plaster should be pretty cheap, so that just leaves the roof, and hopefully that won't run a huge bill. The last, and probably strongest reason for my interest in straw is that it is sustainable. Straw is a waste product. It is the dried up leftovers after a harvest and a lot of it is burned every year. So building with it is reusing waste, and it is biodegradable. That is obvious, but the truth of the matter is that even if I were building a mansion that I planned to live in for the rest of my life, there would be a time that house was through being used, and I like the idea that it can decay and return to the earth.

As I become more aware of my own impact on the earth, I feel more and more obliged to reduce it. The main purpose of this experiement is to see if it is possible to incorperate a straw building into my life. The big questions I want to answer are about the real cost and time of building a straw home and about the true impact of the materials used to build it. I wonder if this building technique could be a way to make affordable housing that is energy efficient, as well as being good for the environment and the occupants.

When I first told my mother about this project, she started screaming about a big bad wolf outside of my house blowing it to bits. But as you will see, finished bale houses largely resemble "normal" houses. The are both beautiful and substantial. Nothing a wolf, or anyone else could blow over.

an image of a small home borrowed from

a western bale home from