In part I of this series we explored cob as a sustainable/regenerative building model. Continuing with this study on ecological buildings and how they fit into the EarthSky People regenerative living paradigm, we’ll now take a deeper look at straw-bale construction.
Straw-bale: Another time tested building material. A straw-bale house can be be constructed using two general methods: loadbearing and non-loadbearing. The former utilizes stacked straw-bales to support the weight of the roof whereas the latter is essentially a wooden frame using straw fill for insulation. This form of building has been in use in the plain states since the late 19th century.
FREEDOM/INDEPENDENCE: Straw-bale is a byproduct of industrial farming and is thus abundant and usually inexpensive, depending on location. The material is also easy to work with and requires much less technical knowledge than a conventional house making this a good choice for building that allows for freedom and independence from the conventional system. Given the flexibility of this kind of structure, it also lends itself well to living off grid.
ENVIRONMENTAL FOOTPRINT: The massive insulation value of having giant straw blocks for walls makes this kind of structure super energy efficient. Furthermore, putting this waste product to good use as housing rather than producing more waste to manufacture new materials adds to the “eco factor” of this building method.
ADAPTABILITY: Much like cob, straw-bale construction is relatively easy to work with and offers a lot of flexibility and potential to adapt to any situation.
SECURITY: Straw-bale construction offers much the same security potential as a conventional house. The material is fire resistant and nor is it generally subject to damage by pests. Perhaps the only obvious weakness to consider would be susceptibility to moisture problems in wet weather.
STABILITY: Despite the lessons taught by the Three Little Pigs, straw can actually provide the material for a robust house. If built correctly, this form of structure will provide a stable shelter in most conditions. Straw-bale buildings over a century old can still be seen standing.
COMFORT: Construction using straw-bale, especially the non-loadbearing approach, is very similar to conventional housing and can offer the same comfort level with the added benefit of being especially energy efficient.
Straw-bale is a great building material and houses made with it absolutely have the potential to meet all the criteria that we set forth. By itself as a long term solution, however, straw-bale does not fully reflect the heart and soul of the EarthSky People principles.
Straw is a byproduct of industrial farming and is ultimately not sustainable on a large scale, especially if we are to move away from destructive mono-cultures and into natural farming methods. Typically it is estimated that eight to ten acres of industrial grain fields, such as wheat and oats, is required to build a small house using straw. Although the current agricultural paradigm allows for this, our purpose is not to operate within the status quo, but to create lasting positive change.
Using industrial waste is a great way to reduce the impact of the current system but the EarthSky People regenerative living principle requires a solution that eliminates the waste entirely and creates awareness and conditions that regenerates people and the planet.
The hunt for the perfect EarthSky People dwelling continues…