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What is a Straw House?

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  • Written By: Malcolm Tatum
  • Edited By: Bronwyn Harris
  • Last Modified Date: 05 November 2016
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    Conjecture Corporation
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A straw house is an example of the green architecture that is used in the design and construction environmentally friendly homes. However, the concept of a straw house is not a recent architectural innovation that has been employed in a number of settings since the middle of the 19th century. Key to the construction of this type of house is the use of straw bales that are firmly packed and are likely to hold up for extended periods of time.

The basic construction of any straw house will include the use of several different sizes of the straw bales. Straw from any number of sources can be used to construct the bales. Straw harvested from wheat, rye, barley or oats all work equally well. As long as the straw is compacted firmly, the bales can quickly be set into place to form exterior and interior walls. Once the bales are in place, they can be covered with stucco to seal the bales and prevent infestations by rodents and the gradual decay that exposed straw undergoes when left in the open.

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Two traditional approaches to the construction of a straw house are still used today. The most basic method, known as the Nebraska style, involves the simple stacking of bales into walls that in turn will support a wooden roof structure. A second method involves the creation of a standard wooden frame for the home, using the straw bales to fill in around the support beams and to create the walls.

There are several benefits to the construction of a straw house. One has to do with the overall construction cost. Since straw is a material that is readily available and extremely inexpensive, it is possible to build houses using straw bale construction for very little money. People who are looking for a way to build a sustainable building on a low budget often find that straw makes it possible to construct a beautiful home for very little cost.

Another benefit has to do with the insulating properties of the straw bales. When constructed properly, a straw house is extremely easy to heat and cool. This can lead to significant savings in utility bills or make it possible to utilize a smaller solar panel system for heating and cooling the interior.

A straw bale house is also easy to remodel. For example, a window can be added by simply cutting a section out of the wall, sealing the exposed straw, and installing the window frame. Creating a solid wall is also a simple process, involving the removal of the window framing and filling in with straw bales that are trimmed to fit snugly into the space. The straw is then covered over with stucco, creating a perfectly smooth and uninterrupted wall.

In an age when people are beginning to consider various environmentally friendly ways of living, the sustainable architecture of a straw house is an option that is well worth considering. The ease of construction, excellent insulation, and the ability to alter or add to the original dwelling without major problems make home of this type very attractive to anyone interested in the process of sustainable living.

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