My new dream is to live in a home made of straw. I don't mean one that can be blown down by the big bad wolf. I am talking about an affordable living structure that is not only aesthetically pleasing but easy on my wallet as well. While straw bale construction used to be a method of the past it is gaining ground as an eco- friendly alternative to stick frame construction. For owner builders straw bale construction is quickly becoming the course of choice and with good reason!
Straw bale construction is easy on the environment. Straw is a waste product that is often burned from fields as there is no other need for it. Settlers in Nebraska built their homes from straw bales decades ago because of the need for readily available materials. It is only now that we are realizing the potential of building homes from this abundantly accessible by-product. Not only would you be building from a product that is considered waste, you would also be building from material obtained from a neighboring farm. This is a significant savings over traditional construction materials that are trucked in from miles away.
Many straw bale homes are designed and built by the people who will actually live in them. This is a significant savings in the price of a home as labor accounts for nearly 55% in some areas of the country. Straw bale homes are also built faster than traditional construction methods. Many home owners will hold a 'raising' of sorts similar to a traditional barn raising. Offer the beverage of choice and some pizza and you will have a work crew lined up in no time.
Building with bales is more than just a green alternative. You will save significantly in energy usage while living in your straw bale home. With an R value of 2.38 per inch you can easily have an insulated wall with a rating of R40. This will be an impressive savings over traditionally built energy efficient homes that typically have an R18 rating in the walls.
Straw bale homes are built with on site materials. Generally the earthen plaster is made from materials dug from your home site while it was being prepared for the foundation. If materials need to be hauled in to make the perfect recipe for earthen plasters they can be obtained from local quarry's. This boosts the economy locally while still giving you an affordable option to siding and Sheetrock or similar materials.
Often times owner builders will use a variety of energy efficient methods when they build. Its typical to find straw bale homes that are built using passive solar techniques. This does not mean that they use solar power, although that is an option. The use of passive solar refers more to site orientation and the use of the earth as a heater and cooler for the home. Southern exposed windows are one way to achieve this goal. Many straw bale home dwellers report an even temperature of 72 degrees indoors even on the hottest days in Arizona.
While straw bale homes are labor intensive they are a great alternative to a new home that can easily come with a $200,000 price tag. A straw bale home built by thrifty owners can easily be built for under 10,000 and will certainly make all that hard work worth it. If you are considering a new home purchase, I urge you to consider building with bales. It is certainly a viable option in home construction and one that typically carries a lot less debt. Don't believe what the three little pigs told you, in the area of straw bales they were thoroughly mistaken.