Building A House With Straw Bales

With the recent week of -40 degree weather, my thoughts have again turned to straw bale houses. I first discovered these creations a few months ago and was immediately impressed. If you’re not familiar with straw bale houses, here’s a quick run down.

The main idea is that the walls are not made of lumber, insulation, and gyprock. Instead there is a wood frame that is filled with straw bales and covered in plaster.

Straw Bale House

Taken from http://www.flickr.com/photos/bluearc21/5036084/

Straw Bale House

Taken from http://www.flickr.com/photos/73416633@N00/304363867/

The main benefit of this type of structure is the amazing insulation that the straw bales provide. My house (where the temperature with the wind chill has reached -47 degrees this week) has R-20 in my walls. Straw bales would provide an insulation value of R-50 to R-60.

Straw Bale House

Taken from http://www.flickr.com/photos/indigo100966/1856700319/

According to Strawbale.com, the energy savings of a straw bale house is about 75% over a traditional stick frame home. What that means in dollars and cents is this: Last year my heating bill was $778. If I had the same house, but built out of straw bales, my heating cost would have only been $194. That’s pretty impressive.

Straw Bale House

Taken from http://www.flickr.com/photos/8002454@N06/472853961/

I love the sunken window and door frames, the rounded corners, and the imperfect surface.

If I build any major buildings in the future, I would love to build a straw bale structure. And of course, if I do, you’ll be the first to know!

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19 Responses to Building A House With Straw Bales

  1. Brian says:

    Love it! I just returned to Alberta after living on Montreal Island, working at an organic farm for a year. My girlfriend is going to a farm in Ontario that is focusing on contructing homes with compressed earthblocks and strabale insulation. I’m familiar with strawbale and have been fantasizing about putting something up on my father’s land west of edmonton. There’s some interesting sounding stuff going on here, though no where in the realm of what’s happening in Ontario. Still good though. Check out:
    http://www.auraborealis.com/greenfoundation/home.html
    and:
    http://www.sunandstraw.com/

    And I met some old ladies today coming off the plane from montreal who were talking about a daughter that’s building a strawbale home near edmonton. YAY!

  2. Stuart says:

    Obviously you guys don’t struggle with termites! I would love to build one of these homes. Everything you’ve stated goes in its favour. Great post.

  3. Dave says:

    Thanks for the comments, guys! If you do build something, Brian, be sure to send me some pictures and tell me about your experience.

    And yeah, we’re pretty termite free… Most people’s concern with straw bale building is mice as far as critters go. A straw bale wall would make a cozy winter bed for a mouse – but from what I’ve heard, mice are no more a problem in a straw house than a stick frame house. The thick plaster keeps the straw sealed up so the mice can’t get in. Plus, the straw is packed so tightly, it would be pretty hard to burrow through.

  4. kate says:

    I haven’t heard of straw bale house construction before – it certainly has merit especially considering the incredibly cold temperatures we’ve just experienced.

    I like the look of the room with the deep-set windows.

    Now I’m wondering why this idea hasn’t become more popular and widespread.

    Welcome to Blotanical.com – it’s a great way to get to know what’s happening in the garden blogging community!

  5. Dave says:

    Thanks for reading, Kate. I wonder if the three little pigs haven’t cast a bad light on houses made of straw! “Sure, it’s just a fairy tale, but…”

  6. Lorie Saito says:

    This is the best way to build. WE offer seminars, workshops, blueprints, engineering and best of all, we’ll help you get it built.
    With over 15 years of straw bale experience, we’ve cut through most of the red tape.
    WE also offer an integrated design service that considers the building as a whole system and uses renewable technology to create a whole system for our building.

    We can help. It’s a great way to get involved in your home…

    Lorie

  7. Lorna says:

    Just wondering how much per sq foot it would be to build?

    Thanks,
    Lorna

  8. Dave says:

    From what I can tell, it varies hugely. I’ve seen quotes that range from $55 to $140 and with recent building costs increasing, I’m sure you can shoot higher yet. My best guess is to figure out what it would cost to build a stick built house and tack on 10% to build that same house with straw.

  9. cyndi millett says:

    Hi, Could I please have more info from Lori Sato who replied June !3th ? We would like to find someone in Alberta that builds strawhouses, or that can help us find someone who does. Thankyou very much, Cyndi

  10. I love your houses,i think there super,nothing better than a good ride in the straw!!!

  11. George says:

    My only concern would be mice. Growing up on a cattle farm come sring we would find all these mouse trails under the bail piles.How would we keep them out?

  12. Dave says:

    I thought the same thing, George. But apparently the plaster covering the balls is an inch or better thick, so the mice can’t get into the straw.

  13. Geoff says:

    I was wondering where I can get the straw bails to start a construction project?

  14. Dave says:

    You could try kijiji.ca or maybe post an ad in your local classifieds.

  15. Sherri says:

    wondering if anyone out there has information on appraising straw bale homes in the northeastern alberta market – resale value information, appraisal methods. I am having trouble with an appraiser whose approach is to heavily discount the value because it is a non-typical construction method and shape. Would appreciate any advice or references.
    Thanks

  16. I am researching straw house options I need any web sight that would give me floor plan options and how to instructions and material lists basicaly all the information I need to start construction please can anyone give me a hand with this thank you, earthwatcher;

  17. Leslie says:

    We are selling our straw bale home in Southern Oregon so there are lots of pictures and ideas on our web site, including a 182 photos of the construction of our adobe studio and the straw bale home. Have fun browsing!

  18. khalid says:

    hello))) its really wonderfull ideas those i get and saw here thanks a lot for sharing it here,although here in africa we use some natural matrials but the system here is more modernized !! please can u advise me wich books its better to understand this kind of constructions or whatever its possible to do online course ? also please can i knew,from hot weather this kind of houses it will not burn ?
    much thanks!!

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