When you start poking around, doing some research on natural building methods. There is one construction medium that seems to be popular in many circles and keeps coming up… straw bales. Enthusiasts often tout benefits such as an improved insulation R-value, good use of an abundant resource, and their quick build time (attributed to straw bale construction being more simple than traditional home construction, thus easily implemented by novices for a larger and cheaper work crew.)
How is Straw Bale Construction Different
There are a couple different methods typically used when building a straw bale home. The first and most common is to start the walls with studs or vertical joists then use the bales as an infill between them the second is to stack the straw bales in such a way that the straw bale walls themselves hold up the roof. Due to the logistics involved this method is rarely used. However, some homes were built using the stacking only method here in Spokane and you can read the Inlander article that mentions it.
It seems that over the last few years some of the interest in this type of housing has died out in the area and I know of more than one builder who is getting away from this kind of construction. Due to both real and imagined issues the straw bale revolution seems to be over before it ever really started here in the Inland Northwest. The primary weaknesses of straw bale are mold and pests issues. Rigorous steps must be taken to ensure moisture is kept out of the walls. One architect I talked to was glad that straw bale seemed to be on the way out, saying it was better suited to countries and areas where “barn raising” was a more feasible method of home construction.
It seems that many who would like to undertake straw bale construction are now opting to start with a detached garage or shop. I have yet to meet with an owner or inhabitant of a straw bale home, so if you have one, contact me and tell me what you think! If you are interested, check out the straw bale home registry or this article about spec straw bale homes in Spokane.