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1 ton straw bale house

 
Walt Holton
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I have been considering building a straw house out of 1 ton bales 4x4x8 (we have an abundance of cornstalk and straw our area), because it would be quick to build, cheap, stable and heck an experience I have not had before. I am a pro homebuilder (25 years, the last 10 in high perfomance construction design and building science). I am planning on doing this home for myself, in a rural environment since we have a local provision which allows a person who lives in an ag area to build for themselves without a permit or third party harassment; it is at your own risk. I have some basic concepts in my mind for structural attachments, wall finishing, environmental durability (keeping it from rot and vermin). My concept is not to make this house look like the run of the mill stick built house, but I certaily am not going for the neo-third world look..perhaps the Frank Lloyd Wright/Howard Roark meets Hobbit style. I would really love to hear if anyone has experiince with actual use of the large bales, or have been thinking about it.

Thanks,
Walt
 
R Scott
Posts: 3305
Location: Kansas Zone 6a
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I have thought about it, even exchanged email with Owen Geiger ( http://www.naturalbuildingblog.com/ )about it. With a telehandler the house will go together FAST. It is going to be super insulation. Framing out doors and windows may be tricky (or maybe it is easy to build bucks out of full plywood sheets).

Biggest issue I see is your footings and roof rafter/trusses need to be MUCH larger than normal for the same interior sq. footage.

My brother-in-law has built emergency animal shelters with them. He had an open pole-building (no walls, just the roof) and just stacked them to make walls. Kept his newborn calves warm and cozy (and alive) in a sudden storm. Running bond and they will not go anywhere.

 
Walt Holton
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R Scott, Although I plan to attache the roof trusses with a bond beam spanning the length of the bearing, I have not figured out what to do with the extra covered area over the 4' bales other than use it for mechanichal space. However, I do not plan on pouring footings but rather excavating out a 5' wide by 2' deep trench around where the bales will sit, and back filling it with compacted, crushed washed gravel (like a french drain) with a perferated pipe set to drain grade at the bottom of the trench with both ends of the pipe ending up in a sump pit (for lack of better words) which could be mechanically ventilated by placing it under a negative pressure ith a radon fan or integrated into a stack ventilation system. This footing system would protect from frost, water and vaporand I don't think the critters would like it too much either. As for the windows and doors the rough design I am working on has only a couple popout areas for windows, with most of the glazing and egress on the south exposure which will be some sort of a mix of thermal mass and stratigic non-low e glass with roof overhangs to shade the wall from summer heat gain but take advantage of the winter gains, and load the interior thermal masses with energy for night. I also plan on building a rocket stove into the design with some sort of a water jacket so I can move the exess heat to other areas of the house or to a greenhouse, or aquaponic fish tanks (that will be phase 4 or 5). I will aso be using operable skylights in parts of the building where traditional glazing may not be logical, but light is desired.

Thanks,
Walt
 
R Scott
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Location: Kansas Zone 6a
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I was less worried about using the space than paying for it. Depending in the size and shape of the building, you are looking at an extra 10% of roofspace--great if you are doing rain catchment in the desert but a big increase in your biggest cost to a bale home.

For entries you would have an airlock just by putting an outer door flush with the outside of the bale and the inner door flush with the inside.

 
Darryl Roederer
Posts: 39
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Consider what you're going to spend for additional roofing material, additional wood for door and window bucks, lost interior space, additional hassles of working with heavy, bulky unforgiving bales that'll have to be lifted, cut, re-tied, additional foundation material, etc... And weigh that against the couple hundred bucks you'd spend for a load of conventional bales to build the same building.

Don't misinterpret me here... I'm not exactly saying it's a bad idea. If I were building a ~1800 sq/ft luxury home in an off grid fashion, the super insulation of a 4 foot thick straw wall would really appeal to me. But based on your description, I don't think that's exactly what you've got in mind. I could be wrong tho.

If you do decide to go with the one ton bales, PLEASE PLEASE take lots of pictures, videos, and notes and share your experience with the rest of us!
 
Satamax Antone
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Location: Southern alps, on the French side of the french /italian border 5000ft high Southern alpine climate.
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I think it's been done before. And it was self bearing. The roof trusses were resting on a plate directly on the bales. Walt, if i was to do something like this, i would do a layer of air entrained concrete blocks under the bales, to keep animals of all kind away. Make a gravel pad in between, insulated underneath, with a thin slab on top. 3 to four inch is way suficient. And use this as the mass for the rocket stove. You could even make the feed tube flush with the ground, and brush all kind of dust, dog hair etc in there Well, it's kind of my plan, for my future building. Tho, it gonna be post and beams on piers. To stop contact between the slab and piers, for soundproofing. Since at the bottom of teh two storey building i'll have my woodworking workshop, and at the top, i will have my house. I will be using small strawbale.
 
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