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Help with strawbale construction on Canadian prairies

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I was hoping to do a few small projects around home to get practise with strawbale construction, before (hopefully, if I can get building permits) tackling a strawbale/ earth sheltered hybrid home in a few years.

I was tinking of doing a chicken coop. Just for a dozen or so chickens. And a combination hot tub/ greenhouse building. Both using passive solar heat principles, with supplemental electric heat, in case.

I have a few questions!!!

Anyone have experience with strawbale in extreme cold? (We are -30*C in winter and +30*C in summer)
How does it handle high humidity (especially for the greenhouse/hottub building?
Do the walls hold up to lots of rain, but mostly snow piled up to it?
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Posts: 2097
Location: Manitoba, Canada
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Hi Jen, did you ever end up building the greenhouse/hot tub building? If so how are the bales holding up to the moisture?
Posts: 24
Location: Southern Alberta
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I'd be a little skeptical of using straw bales in a humid environment.  All the sources I see indicate that good boots and hat are required to keep water off.  A friend that built one near Calgary said the most important thing he did was have the foundation 2' high.  That prevented the snow from piling up against the cob.

How did yours turn out?

Posts: 3597
Location: Toronto, Ontario
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I think I would go a different route.

Rammed earth outer walls with a strawbale exterior layer, cobbed, and long eaves to keep moisture and snow away from the cob.

There is some discussion about where to place insulation with regards to thermal mass, but I prefer most on the outside of the mass, with a minor amount inside as a buffer to potentially chill (at least initially) thermal mass. In that way, you get to use your thermal mass as a thermal battery, keeping you cool in the summer and warm in the winter (although in some places, maybe a hot air exchange to below slab level to store excess heat in the summer in the ground for release in the winter would be good).

Hope you're still following this thread, Jen. I would love to know how it turned out for you.

Posts: 3
Location: North Western Alberta Canada zone 3a
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Darn I was hoping you would get back to us on your project. I am from Alberta in the foothills. I am looking at doing a chicken house straw bale construction. Trying to convince my son that we should cob it. Seen one project that they put a metal flashing ground up. Looked to be 18-24 inches.  But alas we can get 3 feet in a weekend. So we are not going to cob outside. But I wonder if the chicken would destroy it if I finished in cob inside. Or perhaps the humidity could be a factor. The thing I can't seem to get my head around is ventilation. Worried be to sealed and no oxygen equals dead chickens.  
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