Straw Bale Home Basics
Technology Snapshot &
a wide variety of climates, straw bale homes can be comfortable and can manage
moisture effectively if designed and constructed properly. These structures can
provide good thermal (approx. R-30 to R-35) and sound insulation and provide
some fire-resistance in ASTM testing. They use low embodied energy, low-toxicity
building materials which are usually available locally.
homes offer an alternative aesthetic with a variety of options for designs and
vary with climate and are related to home heating costs.
with straw bale homes are related to inadequate design or construction practices
that make the home vulnerable to moisture intrusion. They require a certain
level of expertise to design and construct properly and well-meant but naive
promotion has sometimes encouraged the design/construction of these homes by
people who were not qualified.
Inspectors providing pre-purchase/pre-sale inspections are qualified to inspect
these homes. Interview home inspectors carefully and ask for references.
In some parts of the country, it may be challenging to find construction and
mortgage financing, qualified contractors and tradesmen, or fire insurance for
these homes. Some regions are at an advantage in this aspect, such as Colorado,
since its sunny climate has encouraged the building of energy-efficient homes,
including many straw bales homes, and code officials, lenders and insurance
carriers are more familiar with them than in other parts of the country.
Homes should be designed by architects experienced in this type of construction.
Contractors should have multiple references, qualifications and coverage, and
they should be checked. As with other types of construction, accepting low bids
can be very expensive, since lack of familiarity on the part of the contractor
may be a reason for a low bid.
Home Inspectors, find out how they became qualified to inspect these specialized
homes, since no formal inspection training is available on straw bale design and
More Information On This Topic:
Bale Home Basics article by Kenton Shepard
magazine, comprehensive, covering straw bale and natural building.
Straw Bale Association
Ecological Building Network
Non-profit organization developing educational programs for and
promoting green/sustainable building.
Straw bale testing results are available through this site.