Building with Straw Bales

Written by Sarah Stukalin, AMAST Content

While straw bales may initially appear to be impractical construction material, they are becoming more and more prominent in the industry. Builders have discovered that straw bales hold many benefits while remaining sustainable and environmentally friendly. Here are some of the benefits of building with straw bales.

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Thickness

Because straw bale walls are approximately eighteen inches thick, thick and sturdy walls are easy and inexpensive to achieve in a project. While also providing a distinct aesthetic value, the thickness of the bales helps to reflect the sun throughout the room. The thickness of the bales provides space for window seats and helps with insulation.

Energy Efficient

Because straw bales are an agricultural by-product, they have low-embodied energy. This means very little energy was used to manufacture them, as the sunlight was the main energy source. The only energy used to develop the bales is in the bailing process and transportation to the construction site. The straw harvests are in flat and previously cultivated fields as opposed to being wrestled from forests, meaning no environmental harm is done during the harvesting process. Other insulation materials, such as fiberglass, require a large amount of energy to produce.

Biodegradable

Straw bales are 100% biodegradable but also have a long lifespan. If properly taken care of, straw bales can last over one hundred years. When the time comes for the straw bales to be removed, they can be plowed back into the earth, while other materials become disposable.

Fire Retardant

Despite assumptions, straw bales do a great job protecting a structure from fire. This is because of the thickness of the bales, and that they tend to just smolder when the ignition source is removed. While it may be hard to believe, straw bales are more fire retardant than conventional wood-frame construction.

Insulation

Strawbale insulation is most effective in climates where heating or cooling of the structure is essential for comfort. Structures insulated with straw bale can have insulation values of R-30 to R-35 or more, as the thickness of the bale directly correlates with the insulation value.

Easy

Straw bales are an easy material to work with. They are relatively inexpensive, allowing for more value in your budget. They are also lightweight, making them easy to construct with as well as transport. Straw bales are usually locally available within the lower forty-eight states of the US, so they are very easily accessible.

Style

While straw bale walls and structures are made for a very specific type of aesthetic, they can contribute to the style of a house nicely. People love the design of bookcases, niches, and deep windows made with straw bales. Because straw bales do not provide perfectly straight and sleek lines, many people prefer them for a very specific look.

Works Cited

The Pros and Cons of Straw Bale Wall Construction. (2016, June 17). Retrieved January 14, 2021, from

Cadmon. (n.d.). Top 8 Advantages and Challenges of Straw Bale Construction. Retrieved January 14, 2021, from

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