Saturday, April 09, 2005

Staw Bale

Straw bale is a construction option we've been considering. It attractive for lots of reasons: material is inexpensive, about a dollar a bale; it's low tech, nearly anyone can help build with it; it's non-toxic, unlike so much of the construction materials used today; and it provides excellent thermal and sound insulation, much more so than traditional construction. It's downside is that it is labor intensive, it can rot if not installed properly, and in Vermont it cannot support roof loads so a separate structure has to be built to support the roof (in sunnier, drier places the bales can support the roof eliminating the need for wall structure).

I feel like it's a good option for Destiny primarily because it takes little skill to put up which means more people can participate meaningfully in the construction. It also appeals to my sense of adventure and I would really love to learn how to put a straw bale building together. It's also radical, bucking the use of mainstream materials in favor of simpler and very sustainable technology.

I have faith that it would work. A book published by Chelsea Green called Serious Straw Bale describes projects mostly in Quebec, a climate much like ours, actually harsher. Fire is a big concern of many, but straw bale being completely encased in mud, lime or concrete, has high fire resistance, and it can be coated with boric acid before mudding to further retard combustibility.

2 Comments:

Anonymous Anonymous said...

Matt,

Straw Bale is incredibly easy to fashion into walls. The finish is extreemly rough, though, and usually requires more than a skim coat of plaster. Often, furring strips are attached for thin plsater board to be hung. Unless you are looking for that super rustic look. Have fun with it/

1:18 PM EDT  
Blogger aloofdork said...

The straw bale book by Chelsea Green talks about three different kinds of coatings: mud, lime and concrete. Concrete is not recommended for the northeast because it can trap water inside the wall leading to rot. But in each case, many coatings are applied, usually three. The first is the thickest and roughest, the second is called the brown coat, for some reason, and the third is a smooth finish coat off of which water easily runs. I'm happy to hear that it's easy!

3:21 PM EDT  

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