Just wondering if anyone has thoughts on using the 1000 lb 4x8x3 big bales. We've used them for temporary livestock shelters in the winter, but haven't made anything permanent. They can be a bear to get into position, but I'm wondering if there are any other drawbacks that anyone can think of before I get too carried away with permanent buildings!
I consulted with a company that made hay cubes for horses from those bales. They had a lot of problems with mouldy bales, which is why we were talking. If you're going to be using them for habitation I'd do your best to make sure they were properly dry when baled and stored/cured properly. Otherwise, I think they're a good idea.
A piece of land is worth as much as the person farming it.
-Le Livre du Colon, 1902
It would need to be baled straw instead of hay and that's going to be a huge amount of straw. It would make everything from putting on a finishing coating, to installing Windows and Doors quite difficult.
There's going to be a diminishing return just as there is when any insulating material is put on really thick. And I think there's a good chance that the dew point would be somewhere within the bale.
And imagine the size of the foundation. Regular straw bale walls are already quite efficient. Seems like you would spend an awful lot to get a little bit more efficiency.
One of my customers built a shop with them. 4 high(using 4x4x8) used like bricks on a raised concrete foundation. The roof is trusses screwed to a wood framwork that simply sits on top of the bales. To keep it from blowing away in the wind there are a series of tension cables from the foundation up to the trusses. The walls were finished in sheet steel inside and out. The steel was mounted on horizontal purlions tied to vertical 2x and between the bales were horizontal bars that ran from inside to outside between the layers. The outside vents vertically up under the roof and the inside vents just below the ceiling to prevent condensation from building up on the bales and rotting things. They let it sit a couple of years before putting the siding on so it had settled a bit. So plan things settling vertically over time if you got high with it. Building stays really cool in the summer. Thru the winter it is fairly easy heat a big farm shop.
Location: North-Central Idaho, 4100 ft elev., 24 in precip
I'd be curious how you keep mice or rats from taking up residence in such thick walls. Once they find their way in, they'd have a hay-day (pardon the pun) tunneling through those 4' thick walls.
"The rule of no realm is mine. But all worthy things that are in peril as the world now stands, these are my care. And for my part, I shall not wholly fail in my task if anything that passes through this night can still grow fairer or bear fruit and flower again in days to come. For I too am a steward. Did you not know?" Gandolf
I have no experience with big bales or walls wider than 24"! As you pointed out, they are heavy and difficult to move! I'm quite sure that big bales have been used in construction before--probably in agricultural or industrial applications where super thick walls aren't a disadvantage when it comes to the wall/living space ratio.
An 18" - 24" wide straw bale wall (actually more like 20" and 26" if we include the plaster) has an approximately 12" thermal lag time that pairs rather nicely with diurnal temperature swings (cool nights, warm days) so it buffers the swing and moderates interior temperatures. I wonder if a 36" wide or 48" wide plastered straw bale wall would perform similarly?
You are not alone: quite a few buildings have been built with jumbo bales. All the ones I know of are industrial; wineries being the most popular, because temperature control is critical there.
There are several things that make the use of jumbo bales appealing to me for houses, the foremost being:
1. The super wide wall spreads the load on the arch such that we can dispense with concrete under them, a BIG element of a building's carbon footprint as we trim that elsewhere.
2. The extremely conservative height to width ratio makes the structural stability of the building easy to attain, as long as you strap the two or three courses together
3. As a designer, I'm really intrigued with moving from window recesses to window ALCOVES. Picture your desk or bed IN the window.
I think a combination of window alcoves and recesses would be pretty interesting. Maybe alcoves on the south side and recesses in other areas. Pretty interesting idea, I guess it would depend on your climate.... a nice recessed bed in a warmer climate would be really nice but maybe not so much during those frigid northern winters!