For a short period of time as a kid we used to visit and stay on a farm. Now it wasn't a big farm or anything, but they did have horses, cows, sheep, goats, chickens and even a monkey. Don't ask me how the monkey fit into the whole set up because all it really did was stay locked in a cage/shed in the yard and scare the crap out of us if we ever got too close.
One of our chores of course was to clean out the stalls and put out fresh hay for the animals. This meant there were always plenty of bales up in the loft which we felt was our duty to rearrange on a regular basis just in case we could find a more efficient method of stacking them. Generally we would tend to find the best, if not necessarily most efficient method resulted in a stack with a hollow center, complete with hidden access tunnel.
During afternoons of hiding out in the stack we would of course fantasize about living in such places. Little did we know that many people around the world actually do. Of course the straw bale homes of reality bear little resemblance to our dreams as kids, and in fact, other then some superficial differences look pretty much like a normal home.
There are however some very big differences in the efficiencies of the straw bale home that would attract even the most skeptical. One of the most informative sites I have seen on this subject so far is Strawbale.com and I encourage you to browse their site for a more comprehensive explanation of the benefits these homes bring to the home owner.
Some of the basics that have drawn my attention are listed below
- High insulation value- The Department of Energy gives straw bale an efficiency of R-50, much higher then the standard stick built home. The actual value will depend on bale sizes and positioning, but even cutting that in half is pretty impressive. Straw bale homes can save hundreds of dollars a year in energy needs
- Highly fire resistant- I know that seems backwards, but the fact the bales are highly compressed in the home, along with the thick coatings of stucco and or plaster mean there is very little air to feed the flames if and when they finally do reach the straw.
- Sound proof- The same thickness of walls that provide high insulation value also provide great sound proofing benefits.
- Environmentally friendly- Very few, if any trees are needed for these homes and because straw is a byproduct that is often burned it reduces pollutants and is readily available all over the world.
- DIY- Straw bale homes are much easier for the DIY'r because many of the steps of building can be done by the average person. Those with more skill can do the whole thing themselves if they choose to.
Finally, if this is something you would like to pursue or even recommend to a family member you can purchase these step by step instructional DVD's.
While not everyone can afford to build their own home, myself included, I find options such as this very interesting and believe that the more people aware of alternatives such as this, the more likely it is these homes are to become mainstream. That is something that can benefit everyone.
Photography by Craig Jewell