Straw Bale Homes - Sustainable living
Once upon a time there were three pigs who grew too big for their mum’s pen so they had to leave home. The first pig walked up to a man who was carrying some straw. “Please can I have some straw to build a house?” asked the first little pig.
“Certainly,” said the man. “Did you know that you are taking massive strides towards being eco-friendly as well as providing natural biodegradable solutions for your home?”
“No,” said the first little pig. The second and third little pigs were so surprised by this news that they decided to build their houses of straw too and they were so securely put together that they enjoyed all mod cons and central heating too!
It sounds like a fairy tale, but straw bale houses were very much the norm in Nebraska in the early 19th century. Settlers in the area were thrilled with the open space and lush farmland, but the lack of trees in the area did cause problems. Log cabins were few and far between, so landowners turned to the plentiful supply of straw in order to meet their needs for accommodation.
Bales would be piled high on each other for storage and farmers realised that they kept their shape well. The best feature being that they were almost completely fire resistant and provided resistance from the worst of the weather; even hurricanes were unable to permeate the tightly packed straw bales. The solution to the accommodation issues was finally solved!
As more construction techniques were developed, such buildings fell out of fashion, however rising building costs and high energy bills have forced consumers to revisit older building styles. Some consumers have reconsidered their housing requirements due to the expanding sustainable building movement in the United Kingdom (UK). There are those who are genuinely concerned about their carbon footprint and wish to offset carbon emissions.
Why would anyone want to build a house of straw?
1) There is a glut of straw in the UK. Nationally we create 4 million tons of surplus straw every year: enough for 25 million homes!
2) Straw bale houses provide a high standard of thermal performance due to the bales’ insulation value (U-rated).
3) Of all construction products, straw bales are the most sustainable.
4) Straw bales building do not pose a fire risk, in fact the straw is so tightly compacted that there is insufficient oxygen to create the conditions for combustion. A lime render or plaster coating is usually sufficient to adhere to fire regulations. Straw bales breathe so fluctuations in humidity are dealt with quickly and efficiently with little or no condensation.
5) Straw has no nutritional value so building your home from this material does not pose a vermin risk.
6) Some of the designs available for straw bale houses are truly amazing, with architects creating homes ranging from modest to truly spectacular.
They do say that home is where the heart is and it is important to have somewhere to lay your head, but perhaps for the sake of the futures of our children and grandchildren, we need to revisit those techniques used by our forefathers.