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Small Round Bales for Building.

 
Kittum Daniel
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I have an abundance of grass this year. More grass than we can bale for hay. I was wondering If I could successfully use small round bales for building.

This would be the plan.

I would cut and area where the grass too mature and tough for quality hay.

I would let it lay in this 90+ degree heat for 4 or 5 days until it was dried out, bleached out, and shrunk to it's smallest. This grass would have very little food value left in it.

Then I would adjust the bailer to make 4 foot long bales with a diameter of about 36 inches and hard cores. The bales would have about 4 or layers of plastic net wrap.

The bales then could be stacked by tractor on their ends to make walls. Two bales high would make a wall 8 foot tall.

Could this Idea work?
 
Socrates Raramuri
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wow, you have your own bailer? That's a straw bale builder's dream. That means you set how tight and what size your bails become; quite the advantage over having to count on some stranger to bail what you need. I mean, i'm assuming you can bail normal 'lego brick-style' bails if you choose?
For building, the smaller the better. You talk "round"? You should BUILD round, if you ask me. And if you have 'tiny' bails, you could make 2, or even 3, layers, i.e. next to each other. That way you could build higher.
I've never seen or heard of it done but i thought this through years ago; when you're building up a dome, the places you attach bails to each other are weak points, but if you had 2 layers going up simultaneously, the joints would hardly ever coincide, if at all, and there would be no such weak spots (especially if you have 3 layers going up). That's better for the building up as well as for the overall strength of the dome wall. It's just a thought.

I don't see how it's possible to build with round bales, though, no matter what size.
 
jimmy gallop
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My thought say's it will but between the bails were they are narrow would be lower insulating value ,they could be doubled to be twice as thick.
will make for an interesting look .
 
Kittum Daniel
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i'm assuming you can bail normal 'lego brick-style' bails if you choose


No that is a different kind of bailer. This is a square bailer. Just something I found on Y-tube.



This is a round bailer. Just a quick find on Y-tube



I will go get some pictures of the final product in a bit
 
Kittum Daniel
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Here si some close up pictures of some hay we produced. This particular bale is a bout 4 foot tall and is 4 foot long. I did a close up of the bale wrap to see if the cob masters think if this is a good surface to cob to or how I need to change it such as more wrap or less wrap or a different kind of wrap since there are several options available these days.

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The end of the bale that would be the top or bottom if used for building
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The plastic net wrap type of bale wrap at 3 layers
 
Kittum Daniel
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i was able to go out and play with my new building blocks. I have to point out that these bales should be considered poor quality as far as building potential. This is because the hay had been rained on before we was able to bail it - making the bales "spongey", and since it was poor quality hay we just rolled it up in a hasty fashion to get it off the field. That and the Air Conditioner on the tractor quit so I pushed the bailer a bit harder than I usually do. With that said these are sub-par bales 4 foot wide and about 6 foot in diameter.

It took me about 20 minuets to stack a small wall with a slow tractor. I used the loader to put a load on part of the stack to see how it would hold up. I figure the tractor weighs about 6500 pounds so there may be 2000 or 1500 pounds of load on the stack. I left it there for about 30 minuets before I took the picture from the top.

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It took about 20 minuets to stack this with a slow tractor
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Load test.
 
Kittum Daniel
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jimmy gallop wrote:My thought say's it will but between the bails were they are narrow would be lower insulating value ,they could be doubled to be twice as thick.
will make for an interesting look .


I was able to push the bales together and was able to get a seal with about 16 inches of contact between the bales. With a little help with another tractor or a team of people I am sure 20 inches of contact is doable. Again I will make another excuse here - if I had a spotter watching the rest of the stack I may have been able to be a bit more aggressive pushing the bales together. In any case 20 inches of contact between 6 foot bales is achievable.

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About 16 inches of contact between bales. Dirty ball cap for size comparison.
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Another close look from the side.
 
Kittum Daniel
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I tried 2 more things. I stacked them 3 bale high. the wall was stable but was not hard to push over with the tractor. I think if someone wanted to go this tall it would be good to course the bales like bricks. I also tried the window trick. I believe it would be fine if there was some support under the core of the bale. I am thinking of putting a few boards across the top of the pillar bales then setting the cap bale on top of that. The reason for this idea is that I would be concerned that the core of the cap bale would slide down into the window area.
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Three high was quite stable but easy to push over.
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The window thing.
 
Mike Cantrell
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Hang on there, Kittum. How much reading have you done on strawbale construction? I'm pretty confident there's a reason why people build with straw and not hay.
 
Kittum Daniel
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Mike Cantrell wrote:Hang on there, Kittum. How much reading have you done on strawbale construction? I'm pretty confident there's a reason why people build with straw and not hay.


You are right. Straw is cut standing dead by the combine so it is dry and mostly devoid of any food value for mice and bugs. Because good straw is baled so dry the typical 2 wire bale will weigh between 40 and 55 pounds. Good hay on the other hand for the same size bale has a target weight of 67 pound or a bit more to make 30 bales weigh about one ton. While the weight / density comes into play on the load bearing structural side of things the food value and moisture issues is why straw is used and not hay. To use hay for building will require a totally different strategy of harvest than bailing for "feeding" hay.

Which brings us to August in Oklahoma. I have a field that has not been grazed very heavy. Much of the early spring grass is standing dead or dormant. This is mixed in with the mid sumer season grass that is nearing maturity. In both cases most or at least much of the food value in this grass (carbohydrates and sugars) has converted into fiber and other structural goodies so the plant can go dormant or die and still hold it's seed heads high. (wow, grass plants care for their kids too!) In another week or so the field will be in a transition between summer grasses and the re-emergence of cool loving spring grasses that like to get a head start before winter sets in. If this "High Pressure Dome" weather holds which is hot and dry except for the 70 and 80 % relative humidity, the grass will stress and send much of it's moisture and nutrient to the roots as soon as the seed heads are developed That will be the time to cut the grass.

If it stays dry we will have the time to let the sun bleach it bone dry for 4 or 5 days. Now we can't forget the seeds still attached to the grass which is food value for unwanted bugs and mice. For that we have a Tedder Rake. It is a tool used to scatter, turn, flip, and fling cut grass in all directions so it will dry faster. This is usually done to speed up the bailing process and conserve food value. In this case we will use it to thrash the seeds off to the ground and scatter the grass so the sun can bleach out the last bit of moisture.

In the end the contents of the bale will be quite devoid of food value and be very dry. The bale will be 10 to 15% lighter yet more structurally ridged. It will be almost as good as straw yet almost universally available unlike straw. Since the mature grass needs cleared out of the way for the late season grass, this could almost be considered a waste product because I still would need to brushog the field anyway.

I would like to build a small building of some sort to at least test the concept. We may not have this opportunity every year like we have right now. I need some help with ideas and advice in order to take advantage of this.


 
Socrates Raramuri
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The whole practice of straw bale building came about with the invention of the straw baler. However, the principle is very basic and really has nothing to do with straw per se. It's just that now people have been (i.e. practically) building with straw for over a century, the principle is known and understood.
The principle of straw bale building is that you have an abundance of dry organic matter and then you tie that up tightly into bales that can be stacked. That's it.
It definitely doesn't have to be straw [here are plans for building something that can bail pine needles], but of course there are advantages and disadvantages to different materials. What's essential to 'straw bale building' is that you have some dry organic matter in abundance that can be tied into bales that can then function as very large bricks.

I have often wondered about using hay and the way i see it, it's a good way to put away a significant amount of hay for emergencies; in the case of a severe lack of feed, you can start sacrificing part of a building for saving your livestock.
Straw or hay, you have to cover your walls with cob and build a foundation for them to stand on. If you do this properly, why should you have a rodent issue? Perhaps if you do, you should deal with the fact that you have rodents around your house or just keep up the cob layer well/better. I would not waste good hay as a building material because i might have to deal with rodents.

Having said all that, the smaller your bales the better and these round bales are notoriously large. I know they're popular nowadays but balers used to produce a kind of bricks and that is what led to people using them for building structures with them, not an abundance of organic material. There was always a lot of straw and hay around the world but straw bale building came about because straw balers came into the world. These round bales are overkill in size and dysfunctional as bricks. It would be great if you could rent a square baler or trade your bales or use of your baler for one(s) suitable for building with.
How is it going to be possible to cob a structure built with round bales? Windows? Control form?
 
Kittum Daniel
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Socrates Raramuri wrote:The whole practice of straw bale building came about with the invention of the straw baler. However, the principle is very basic and really has nothing to do with straw per se. It's just that now people have been (i.e. practically) building with straw for over a century, the principle is known and understood.
The principle of straw bale building is that you have an abundance of dry organic matter and then you tie that up tightly into bales that can be stacked. That's it.
It definitely doesn't have to be straw [here are plans for building something that can bail pine needles], but of course there are advantages and disadvantages to different materials. What's essential to 'straw bale building' is that you have some dry organic matter in abundance that can be tied into bales that can then function as very large bricks.

I have often wondered about using hay and the way i see it, it's a good way to put away a significant amount of hay for emergencies; in the case of a severe lack of feed, you can start sacrificing part of a building for saving your livestock.
Straw or hay, you have to cover your walls with cob and build a foundation for them to stand on. If you do this properly, why should you have a rodent issue? Perhaps if you do, you should deal with the fact that you have rodents around your house or just keep up the cob layer well/better. I would not waste good hay as a building material because i might have to deal with rodents.

Having said all that, the smaller your bales the better and these round bales are notoriously large. I know they're popular nowadays but balers used to produce a kind of bricks and that is what led to people using them for building structures with them, not an abundance of organic material. There was always a lot of straw and hay around the world but straw bale building came about because straw balers came into the world. These round bales are overkill in size and dysfunctional as bricks. It would be great if you could rent a square baler or trade your bales or use of your baler for one(s) suitable for building with.
How is it going to be possible to cob a structure built with round bales? Windows? Control form?


That is a good list of observations and questions. The short answer is "Economy of Scale". My wife and I make about 1000 of these bales every year for my mother's dairy plus I have a full time regular job meaning we don't have much spare time. The round bale method cuts man hours to produce, transport, and store a unit of hay by 1/3. The additional time to maintain extra equipment is factored in to that equation. Time needed FOR US to feed the round bale hay is reduced to 1/4 of what was needed to feed the same amount in square bales. That equation has a few asterisks attached because it is dependent on how one feeds the hay and how far the hay needs transported to be fed. In our situation time needed is quite reduced. I can be rather confident in the "time required" figures because the technology to produce and handle square bales has not changed much in the last 40 years since we began the switch to round bales.

Cost wise of bailing - I have no idea the cost comparison to round vs.square bailing. Both are expensive but I am almost certain that the cost of round bailing is much less than the cost of square bailing.

As far as borrowing or renting a square bailer. No way. Those gizmo's are fickle, temperamental, sometimes UN-reliable, and sometimes so difficult to diagnose that I believe they are invented by sadist. When a person has one, it is adjusted to their way and nobody needs to mess with it. Getting a square bailer without buying it is not going to happen and I don't want to buy one.

As for building with round bales, you got me. There are some challenges to work out. The bale diameter can be reduced by a quick and simple adjustment to the bailer. I can see reducing the mass of the bales by 1/3 very easy but they will still weigh about 250 pounds each with the harvest method that I outlined in a previous post. As for cobbing, I am sure someone has invented a way to mix in bulk and shoot the stuff on. I just need to find out about it. But even with those matters addressed, the bulk of the walls will be just one of the issues.

On the other hand I can see setting up the walls of a 30 foot x 50 foot structure in one day with time to spare and having a roof over it the next day using prefab trusses and sheet metal. It could be a fast emergency set up that could last 3 or 4 years with no cob plastering at all. With a little more care and planning who knows?

I think there is some potential with this. I just need some help thinking it through. Thanks for your insightful post Socrates.
 
Joe Braxton
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Just a few random thoughts.....

since you are going to cob over the sides could you treat the smaller rounds like cord wood? Also, is there an easy way to cut the 4' length in half? Then you would have a 2' thick, relatively flat wall.

something like this, only larger....

 
Terry Ruth
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moisture issues is why straw is used and not hay
expanding on your and mike's comments......

As you may have guessed round bales and grass has been looked at before and is not common for many reasons. First is that straw like wood has a hygroscopic property or ability to store moisture in it's tubular geometry and release it through several mechanisms (vapor permeability/diffusion, absorption/ desorption, capillarry absorption/desorption.....We cover it extensively with quantified testing results in this thread please read before you go any further: http://www.permies.com/t/43637/natural-building/Breathable-Walls

16-18" @ density of 6 lb/ft3 is the max width to maintain a max moisture content less than 20% by weight at all times during the life of the building at the core of the bale checked with a bale meter at installation to make sure moisture is not built in...there are many ways this is maintained. The thickness and constant density of the bales has to be such that heat can pass through to promote drying when the bale gets wet and it will especially in your climate zone....the rate of air passing through the bales needs to be .2 -.3 air changes per hour usually, thick bales past 16-18 inches do not allow core drying in high humidity climate zones. In winter the bales can freeze if drying at the core and outer layers does not occur. If the total bale depth does not dry in 48 hours mold will develop.

Bale thermal resistance (r-value) is around 1.5-2 per inch, @ 16" R-20-30 for your climate zone anything in excess is a waste of material/labor....you need around r-50 in your roof.

Bales cannot be set on the ground they need a capillary brake as in rubble trench or wood frame is more common to elevate them 24" and create a wire chase, trench below frost line I'm guessing around 18" there, and, depending on plasticity and compression allowed the soil has to resist the weight, more weight more compacted rock at more depth....lots of foundation cost especially at a 4- foot print. The taller the walls the more foundation, more pin ties to the bales to foundation to each other stop the over turning moments shifting from seismic/frost heaving/wind shear pressure possibly combined loads. Taking a tractor bucket to bales is no where close to the structure load testing over time. Straw depending on length and silica content (not food source) has stronger mechanical properties than grasses....hemp is the strongest, wheat next. If your in a seismic zone above C weight up high needs more wall bracing for shear and racking.....tractor compression is not the only property building must sustain and it is misleading.

The ceiling joist/roof rafter spans along with 24"+ over hangs due the large wall thickness may exceed the span tables for 2 x 12's, PE stamped engineered trusses will be required along with the high cost of the foundation. I'd like to see the upper wall sill detail. The window and door framing bucks I'd like to see too. Round bales can make it difficult to effectively utilize interior space.

Lastly mice and bugs like to find warm winter nest in stawbales that requires ALOT of detailing with the renders. A large part of the load bearing wall is carried in a straight planer skin render, measures are taken to prevent cracking as in mesh ties to the foundation and roof, if load is not plainer it will seek it's weakest link at the round bale bale interfaces that needs more pinning vertical and horizontal(not typically needed in staggered) square bales.

As Mike suggested, I too suggest you do some more reading and develop a plan before you waste too much more time....or better it appears a design pro is needed here, there are better ways to build with industry "construction grade" square bales, has been for centuries. Here is "International" code note no round bales and that is for many reasons I'm just getting started: http://www.strawbale.com/irc-code-2013/

There is better ways to utilize grass with lime casting's. High silica long grass fibers combined with lime/clay can make nice insulation if it is not too thick and heavy.
 
Socrates Raramuri
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I hate to seem to have been a part of what might be construed to be 'round bale bashing'... If you have like 1000 of these round bales and are interested in putting them to good use, more power to you.
Hell, an argument could me made that building round forms could be much easier with round bales. Build them up like a pyramid and the space inside will be considerable. And, yeah, cobbing such a form might be more work but the fact that your round bales are (for you) free and abundant does compensate for that. God knows that the sheer thickness of these huge round bales offers interesting advantages concerning strength and stability; most people think regular straw bales are thick but if one has enough space, that's a moot point; so why not go even thicker? LOL Instant castle walls!
I did a workshop on straw bale building in which we used old tires filled with dirt as foundation; obviously one might configure these, as well, as a (circular) floor on which to put your bales. And though smaller bales are easier to work with, the very fact that round bales are very heavy makes it less necessary to pin them down carefully; gravity alone will leave them staying together much more than 'brick bales' would without sticks and string. Perhaps you could set your baler to different size bales and work with different size bales to make windows/holes/layers?

I hope you keep us informed of your progress and share some [what i'm sure will be very interesting] pics.
 
Terry Ruth
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I'll say it again for those that did not get it...the force of gravity has to be resisted by the soil and foundation. All dead, live, environmental loads have to be resisted by the structure and foundation. The bales cannot deteriorate or the structural load carrying capability is lowered, they need to dry and that needs to be proven. If one does not understand the math, proven code, loads, forget the concepts, ideas, hire a design pro before your building collapses with you in it. Most these days do not take the load bearing wall path because of the risk, they use frame work to take the loads since there are design guides (code spans, etc) to design to. Bales are used strictly as insulation. In very cold regions with high snow loads (70+ psf) that need walls at r-30-50, roofs at r-60, like north america they are framing an outer blown in cellulose insulation wrap with light construction (2xs) these days to keep the ground loads low, the bales take no load. The bales are also elevated on frame work with a capillary break to prevent structural derogation and inability to carry loads over time. If the design is not right it can collapse and the renders will continue to crack allowing moisture in the walls further deteriorating the structure, and hay does not have much tolerance or safety margin for that.
 
Jay C. White Cloud
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Hello Kittum, et al,

Here is some suggested reading that may shed some more light on the subject...

Some Straw Bale Architecture History

Straw Bale Architecture Pest Control

I would also add the following observation, if I may, that may explain things a big better...

Kittum Daniel ... wrote:In the end the contents of the bale will be quite devoid of food value and be very dry...


True...but not nearly enough to make this material suitable for architecture in my experience or research...

The primary reason we do not use grass for any form of architecture, has more to do with "carbohydrates" (which are sugars) than anything else...not even its current moisture content.... Even with greatly reduced "moisture content" at harvest time, the accumulated interstitial moisture that moves through any wall and roof diaphragms of architecture is enough to activate these carbohydrates and the organisms that feed upon them...Simply put...what makes dried grass great fodder for live stock is exactly what makes it decay inside walls...and the thicker the wall...the faster this organic reaction takes place.

Kittum Daniel wrote:...I would like to build a small building of some sort to at least test the concept. We may not have this opportunity every year like we have right now. I need some help with ideas and advice in order to take advantage of this...


I can understand and support the desire to "experiment." I think that is cool...

However the first challenge I would have with this system, as stated before...even if made of straw instead of grass...is the shaft orientation. These fibers need to be in a format (such as square bales) that lay in a fashion that runs from the outside of the building to the inside. This facilitates the greatest degree of permeability that Terry expanded on and is a..."must have"....if interstitial moisture buildup and decay isn't going to take place very rapidly.

Round bales are a product of "industrial agriculture" and facilitate the rapid harvest, transport and storage of the largest amount of materials possible for the formation of round silage bale, and/or in a dry format for later use...It was never, nor would it be applicable to any for of architecture.

Round bales even in straw would lead to this issue as there is a "tipping point" in straw wall thickness (aka homeostasis) that we (those that practice and study this architecture) are just beginning to understand...There is a thing as..."too thick,"...and it must be balanced out with other forms/types of insulation if a greater factor of thermal resistance is required for some reason for a given very cold climate. Most standard square bale with the shaft fibers oriented in the correct manner will achieve a "super insulated" thermal diaphragm in most designs in North America....when...these are working in a balance concert and sympathetic format with the other natural building materials within this type of system...

Hope that shed a bit of light why we don't use grass or larger bales...

Regards,

j
 
Terry Ruth
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This 2012 IRC explains "out of plane" #1 shear loads formed by "irregular building" and the additional requirements for braced walls to resist shear lateral forces of the hay in this case which is weak, so the skins will try and compensate but, since there is not a continuous plane or load path it needs more bracing (mesh). I would remove the square area between the bales as having an ability to carry load and try and get it back with mesh. If you look at braced wall requirements a plane must exist as noted in #1, a PE will require the same load path or will have to find another as in mesh, wire, rebar, etc.... The higher the wall the worse it gets. OK is in Seismic zone A with slightly lower requirements, wind gust zone 90 MPH, some like Moore after several tornado deaths due to poor designs have raised the requirement to 150 mph wind. IMO it needs to be EF5 250-300 mph since OK looses lots of lives and injuries to high winds every year, along with ice damage. If they did that light construction would never pass code and lumber industry would not profit. Now they would have to re-develop code for heavy Timbers which is what bales need to be surrounded by framing, that was in code in the IBC but got removed due to politics, or, look at concrete in the 300 mm range, that would require better soils or rendering them and foundations. 4 inch concrete walls are proven to survive EF5s in Moore, earth would need to be 300 mm (12 ") or have reinforcements....I think lives could be saved if more people in the mid west knew what they were doing.

# 5 has to do with a floor rim joist at the walls to resist gravity and take the wall, roof, window/door header spans from jack studs down to the floor and foundation limiting the dead weight ground loads. It's not clear to me how a round bale design meets any of these requirements, the weak shear plane between bale courses that depending on height will not take 90 mph winds without wearing or fatiguing (seismic C+ forget even worse), hence a PE would need to do the analysis since there is no prescriptive (historical) code path.
Irregular Building's..JPG
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jimmy gallop
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that would be as thick as square so it seems

could be used as walls for say a winter hog shelter then still fed later or turned to compost,
keep testing ,trying you'll come up with something
 
Burra Maluca
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Maybe you could build a bale-press and convert some of those huge round bales to smaller square bales.

Here's a link to a thread about them - the bale-press at wheaton labs

 
Dale Hodgins
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Straw bale construction is already laborious. Unwinding a giant bale and repackaging by hand would increase the workload considerably.

I've never seen straw in the giant bales. Hay is unsuitable for the many reasons stated earlier.
 
Burra Maluca
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True, but if you're making your own hay specifically for the purpose of building, you could probably cut it much later, when it's fully gone to seed, when it would presumably be far less leafy and more stalky and straw-like.

Also, maybe you could use the bales as 'in-fill' rather than load-bearing, designing the building around what materials you have.
 
Terry Ruth
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Stand alone grasses will struggle as in-fill to get enough r-value in climate zones like OK. At best ~ .5 - .8 r/inch needing in this case a structured wall cavity of 60 inches (1.5 meter) not feasible. Depending on species they need to be encapsulated in a binder (clay, lime, MGO, etc) as a fiber reinforcement. Like a hemp casting that has around 40-60 psi compression and some shear wall resistance I have never seen quantified but, last I heard there is some ASTM testing to determine it. When you cast in Fiber Re-enforced infill into frame work you get a hybrid of both mass concrete and framework with structural multi-directional properties vs bi-directional, sorta like a dome roof vs gable, which is great for earthquakes and tornado zones. Hemp is best but in this application it certainly is not that superior to ship internationally...Grass, hay, can be just as effective with the right binder and geometry. Like CO, NE, Farmers need to get behind a bill to allow hemp in OK, KS, it is a very low maintenance profitable crop once the machinery in place to separate the fibers from the stalks.

The grass, like straw, cannot be green and s/b free from microbials. Interesting how as the microbials leave during the drying period temperature rise in some clay-slip test I've seen due to energy. And, that is one of the issues drying that can take months before doors, windows, roofs are installed, but, there are binders and methods to take the drying time down. Settling would be another issue and finding a density probably around 3 lb/ft3 to relate to an r-value. Rendering another since strawbales do fine other than at wood interfaces where mesh may be required as lath.

I fully support as should we all finding local solutions to buy waste from farmers such as Daniel rather than the bureaucratic industrial insulation industry. That is going to take an Engineer such as myself, a lab, time and $, and a fight with the International Code Council, another bureaucratic industrial mess! I have already opened that door in my jurisdiction but it was very time consuming so it is on the shelve for now, and I'm temporarily in Mojave desert, in CA working unfortunately
 
Kittum Daniel
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Thanks to all that replied to this thread.

The facts posted by Terry and Jay are consistent with some of my own observations.

The clincher was the one about moisture entrapment compounded by fiber orientation. This is the reason we store these bales in long rows butted up tight end to end. For feeding we want to keep a desired amount of intracellular moisture in and keep the other water out.

On the structural side I had a concern about keeping a consistent density across the length of the bale. A square baler has a rake or a fork that feeds the chamber in a manner that helps maintain a constant density from side to side. A round bailer has no such devices. If the baler is feed more on one side than the other, the final product will have a pronounced taper. Most balers have a device inside the cab that monitors belt tension on the outside belts but these systems can't give the operator the precision needed for this application. Even if they were precise, windrow conditions could make the objective out of reach.

With the current technology this idea is not as good as I had hoped. Oh well, time to hook up to a brushog.

Again thanks to all that took time to consider this idea.
 
Dale Hodgins
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If I were trying to insulate with straw that I cut myself, I would never bale it.

 Instead,  I would build a post and beam structure with form boards attached.

 Straw could be placed in a clay slip and then packed directly into the wall so that it's one monolithic structure without all of the joint issues that straw bales have.
 
Jay C. White Cloud
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What Dale just posted times 10....

I have stopped facilitating SB architecture for the most part...unless...

1. There is a timber frame superstructure supporting the roof and all primary structural wall diaphragms...

2. The straw bale is literally growing within walking distance of the building site (~radius of 50 miles to me)...

I still would recommend one of the "light cobs" (aka slip clay straw infill methods) over SB now for overall performance and durability.

Other than "hand harvesting" some of the "stalk grasses" after going to seed and drying out...I can't think of any of the "hay grass" species that would be even remotely safe enough to put within a wall void?

Regards,

j
 
Kittum Daniel
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Jay C. White Cloud wrote:
Other than "hand harvesting" some of the "stalk grasses" after going to seed and drying out...I can't think of any of the "hay grass" species that would be even remotely safe enough to put within a wall void?



Does Johnson grass fit in your category of "stalk grasses"? The reason asking is that is what I'm fixing to go brushog - about 30 acres of it.
 
Jay C. White Cloud
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OOOhhhh...Hmmm....now that is something to experiment with perhaps??

I had to look and my suspicious were correct...it is a Sorghum ssp so is know for a very high carbohydrate content...however if the "stalk" can be harvested after going to seed and have the primary leave material removed, there could be possibilities there perhaps.

I know of a number of "experiments" conducted by enterprising folks like you with...

Golden Rod stalk
Nettle stalk
Hemp (of course)
Cattail
and several of the "thatching reed" species...

So we are really clear Kittum, I have been clear from the beginning of your post, you are interested in "experimenting" with this entire concept...I met it when I said that sound exciting and interesting. I am glad to offer whatever I know or guidance I can give to make this "test structure" as viable as possible. If you can afford to just get some key elements into the structure, and can afford the time and effort bale (round or otherwise) and "monolithic" bale species like this Johnsongrass (i.e. 80% or more of the bale is of that species) it would be really interesting to see how the building behaves and react to aging and the element of time.

Just a small shed structure with a good and well vented roof would be on interest. I have "play around" with "hay bales" many times over the decades and have never gotten any to last in good order past the 5 to 8 year mark. I have "treated" a few with borates and rock salt to some effect, and have wonder about other natural fire retardant materials (which are also mold inhibitors) for neutralizing the "carbohydrate challenge" for in hay grasses...I finally gave up on the entire concept because of the "labor and logistics" of "making something work" in light of better and more proven vernacular systems. I have still held hopes for a "mono species" (like the one above) after it has run its normal life cycle.

Whatever, comes of this, please do keep this thread post going with your discoveries and observations. I will follow along and answer any "what if's" I can address, and/or find info for you...

Regards,

j
 
Kittum Daniel
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Jay C. White Cloud wrote:OOOhhhh...Hmmm....now that is something to experiment with perhaps??
...
So we are really clear Kittum, I have been clear from the beginning of your post, you are interested in "experimenting" with this entire concept...I met it when I said that sound exciting and interesting. I am glad to offer whatever I know or guidance I can give to make this "test structure" as viable as possible. If you can afford to just get some key elements into the structure, and can afford the time and effort bale (round or otherwise) and "monolithic" bale species like this Johnsongrass (i.e. 80% or more of the bale is of that species) it would be really interesting to see how the building behaves and react to aging and the element of time.


We have a deal!

I have a need for a small shed that I can put a lawn mower and things of that nature. I am thinking 8 foot side walls, 15 feet x 15 feet inner space with a 10 foot wide opening in case I need to back the flat bed of a pickup under it. I might consider another one as a wood shed depending on how much solid Johnson grass acreage we have. I'll take a picture of 2 acres of a small area that went out of control. The grass is almost 8 foot tall there right now. I can leave another strip out of a field I plan on cutting for hay tomorrow or the field after that a few days later.

If you think this is a go, let's plan on baling this stuff in the second or third week of September - same as 5 or 6 weeks from now. It should be standing dead by then.

As for the other material. Most of it is already here and the crusher with washed gravel in on speed dial. A working farm if any size is always under construction or repair.

I will have you some pictures tomorrow.
 
Jay C. White Cloud
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Hey Kittum,

Awesomeness...thanks for doing this and taking the time and energy to front such a wonderful experiment...

These types of endeavors, even if not fully scientific with large parameters for "control elements," have great value in furthering out knowledge in so many areas of natural architecture... Johnsongrass, is one of those "invasive species" that can be taken and actually perhaps turn into a "good thing." I have read (can't find the bloody thing at the moment) of botanist working on breeding strains for a number of applications from "pulp" for paper to pelletizing for combustion and even a biodiesel.

If you think this is a go, let's plan on baling this stuff in the second or third week of September - same as 5 or 6 weeks from now. It should be standing dead by then.


Affirmative, that will set us up for the most optimal conditions for this first run at a "high carb grass architecture." I'm projecting, that for a non heated, ambient temp dependant, form of "ag storage" building as you have describe we may be able to get a solid generation of use out of it perhaps before compromise takes place warranting reconstruction. Secondly, if we can streamline the structural building process, even if the building turns out to be bi-seasonal in its "transient makeup" in a material nature, it won't matter as the primary resources "self generates" seasonally. I get much of my concepts in this form of natural architecture from a short time I have spent with and/or studying "grass architecture cultures" that utilized "grasses and reeds" as a primary building material. معدان (Ma'dan) for primary example have a 4000 year old plus history working with such materials and much to offer in ancestral knowledge to their current use and possible applications...The article, "Life On The Edge of the Marshes" gives on of the best synopsis of a grass/reed architectural form aimed at "lay readers." There is not a great deal of documentation about the Ma'dan culture in either English or Arabic, and even less on the architecture so first hand knowledge and/or related modalities are vital to understanding the architectural format...

The "Mudhif" described below is just one of many vernacular forms you may enjoy learning about and perhaps adapting to the resources you have at your disposal. Even though the "herringbone" weave pattern looks complicated...It really isn't and once master can form a great many wall structural components to such buildings and other applications as well..

I'm not sure what you have planned for a "roof framing" at this time, since your original goal was a "bale structured wall." I typically (for domestic application) do not recommend these structural bales and instead rely on a timber frame superstructure. In this "experimental" applications I believe whatever you care to try is of value and warranted. Perhaps in the future (if not now) I can offer a quick "timber frame truss" design that you can cut assemble and disassemble with some reasonable ease and the use of the tractors you have at your disposal...If that would be of interest? If all is a loss at the end...at least you will have picked up a new skill set in timber framing and a roof frame to put on another structure of a more "durable nature," perhaps...



Thanks again for doing this Kittum! Such endeavours of time and effort to move our knowledge forward are greatly valued. Please let me know if I can be of any further assistance, expand on any point, or just front your "what if" query.

Regards,

j
 
Terry Ruth
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I'd like to see that structure after a decade and see if my hunch is correct that they are failing at the pre-loaded bolts and/or foundation from vapor uptake.

Based on field results and testing on the Breathable wall thread I do not think strawbale will fail in every climate zone, just the more risky wet ones. Here in the high desert in CA, for example, where the humidity rarely gets above 12-15% I think they do just fine. Also, structurally they would out perform clay-slip as proven here in CA in earth quakes. The composite ductile core along with stiff skins and lower weight (around 5 PSF) that will fail before the building collapses and hurts people works great! The same holds true for the NE bale homes with some of the harshes climate swings in the nation still standing since the late 19th century I have researched, I think it is 17 our of a 100 that were load bearing and not built with the latest knowledge. Too risky and labor intensive compared to others known today IMO. Clay slip has issues we know of if not build correctly and there are a lot of factors at play that need to be understood most do not....most mixs get low r-values, as low as grasses, built in bacteria and mold since they did not do the proper initial testing and get a consistent mix by hand or mortar mixer. R 1.7/inch at best @ 13 PSF with some mass effect if it is even utilized in the design has limitations. Compared to strawbale @ 8 PSf that xtra 5 PSF can cost some $, and time is $ alot of folks cannot afford the 3mo-1 yr drying time, there will be more wall bracing requirements (sheathing or beams) in the structure to take the weight at the top of walls in high seismic zones, C+ from ground shifts. In cold regions of the country that just needs more r-value period that can create a very thick wall at a high expense, especially the foundation.

Johnson grass: my approach has been to take these species, and there are many, into a lab to understand the chemical make up then find a fast drying binder. I do not see hemp as "experimental" it has a long history, it is clear to me since I have some from Europe and have casted with it, that since it can grow with no pesticides, little to no irrigation, tall in sand even, it's long stalk and sand content makes it one of the strongest fibers available. From what I understand, it bonds well to CA, MGO, other silica to point of totally saturating the fiber 100% which is what we want. Durisol and Faswall have suceeded at that with clay, MGO, wood chips, with a propietary blend binder ratio that works great below concrete foundations and walls since the wood is petrified to an extent or protected and allowed to perform in wet environments. I'd like to take that into a lab and figure out how to get the 100% saturation of the binder. My approach would be to use these grasses or wood chips or hybrids as a means to hold together hygroscopic mass like clay, MGO, lime, and improve their insulation values.

Perhaps if I got some time I'll create a CAD model of your experiment shed if you define it better and your serious about the build.
 
Terry Ruth
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Here you go buddy your new man cave, get rid of the metal, just pull your tractor in relax over a good Johnson grass pipe smoke or something

http://www.metal-building-homes.com/60x110-metal-building-w-jaw-dropping-interior-hq-pictures/
 
Kittum Daniel
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Terry Ruth wrote:Here you go buddy your new man cave, get rid of the metal, just pull your tractor in relax over a good Johnson grass pipe smoke or something

http://www.metal-building-homes.com/60x110-metal-building-w-jaw-dropping-interior-hq-pictures/


LOL that is quite a bit North of my income and social status. I like hanging out at a friends place where he built a barn to look old and have a few social events. This picture is a few years old and we took out the barrel stove ad put in an old cook stove.





 
Kittum Daniel
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Terry Ruth wrote: I'd like to see that structure after a decade and see if my hunch is correct that they are failing at the pre-loaded bolts and/or foundation from vapor uptake.


I agree with you that there will be some issues. This is a hard climate for any kind of structure. But when it fails, it will be easy to move away and reuse the salvage material.

Ok back to work on the project which I will also call a test.

Here is some basic information about the site and material for consideration.

Included is pictures of the Johnson grass plot that I propose to produce the building material, The fore ground has quite a bit of Bermuda mix grass in it. That will not be included in the building material. When one goes into the taller grass, it is quite evident that all the other grasses have been pushed out so the Johnson grass is about as pure as I can find. This grass here is in the 7 foot tall range - more or less. This is the stuff I am thinking about using for the test.


The building site has an unusual geological feature under it. To the west we have a rather flat area that has a huge limestone formation under it that has been surveyed and is known to run 4 to 6 miles North, West, and South. There are at least 2 operations mining the limestone currently. They use a lot of explosives about 2 and 3 miles from the site and the ground gets some shocks 4 to 6 times a week. We are on the edge of that formation which is outlined by a very slightly elevated ridge with soft sand under it. There is a 30-ish foot hand dug salt well on site - dug into the sand stone - a relic from the early 1800's. To the East, the ground breaks away with a slope of about 3 to 12. This goes about 100 yards East to a small creek where a flint rock formation begins and goes further east. The water table is about 20 feet down on the ridge and there are a few springs along the bottom of the ridge.

I would send a picture of the site but it needs some stuff moved out of the way.




20150810_092001.jpg
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Johnson Grass
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A nearly solid stand of Johnson Grass
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A Rather tall mess of Johnson Grass
 
Terry Ruth
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Give me some dimensions and I'll get a model started with a gable roof. Will you be buying dimensioned lumber or using timbers, post a beam? If you read my blog below we recently did Timbers in Enid, Ok we have Clydesdale in Wichita on it and we have Timber Products...that project is around $10,000,000 right now and almost done. I've looked for a local/regional logger/saw miller with no luck.... I must be missing one in the Ozarks? let me know if you find one, Clydesdale gets them from Idaho, Timber Product NM, $$$.

Any idea what type of site soil...look at the chart.

Soil Compression Allowable.JPG
[Thumbnail for Soil Compression Allowable.JPG]
 
Kittum Daniel
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Terry Ruth wrote:Give me some dimensions and I'll get a model started with a gable roof. Will you be buying dimensioned lumber or using timbers, post a beam? If you read my blog below we recently did Timbers in Enid, Ok we have Clydesdale in Wichita on it and we have Timber Products...that project is around $10,000,000 right now and almost done. I've looked for a local/regional logger/saw miller with no luck.... I must be missing one in the Ozarks? let me know if you find one, Clydesdale gets them from Idaho, Timber Product NM, $$$.

Any idea what type of site soil...look at the chart.



Soil type: The local Ag extension office calls the soil here "Heavy Loam". I suspect that falls into the "mostly silt" category with a rather low weight limit. That would explain why when I park a piece of equipment, the jack stand tends to sink a little bit after a few days.

I sent you a PM regarding a sawmill that most likely will meet you needs.

As for the lumber, I think I should go with regular dimensional lumber due to some realistic time constraints. As for the dimension of the project I am thinking of a 15 foot X 15 foot inside space although 15x20 would let me park the fuel / tool truck under it with a 10 foot wide opening on one side. As soon as I get done with this hay field I will pick and clear out the area and have a firm idea of what we can plan.
 
Terry Ruth
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K, whats the size and dry weight of the bales again?
 
Kittum Daniel
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Terry Ruth wrote:K, whats the size and dry weight of the bales again?


The bailer is a Heston/Massey Ferguson 1746 - the cheapest bailer 4x6 they made. The way that the bailer is set up at the moment the final product should be 4 foot wide from flat end to flat end and 5 foot and 10 inches in diameter. The last time we weighed some of the bales the rounded average was 1100 pounds each. Since then I have adjusted the tension bar and modified some drive sprocket sizes to make a slightly heavier bale. I estimate the bales to weigh in at 1150 to 1200 pounds.

The 4 foot in with is not adjustable but the bale diameter is easily adjusted from 6 foot to 30 inches.

 
Terry Ruth
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Walls: Let's use 1.5' D X 4'(2 courses x 8' tall) @ 1150 lbs dry weight ea, 1400 lbs wet max weight @ 20% MC, stacked & staggered, load bearing(wood dowel pined(I'll specify OC), ~r-30 whole wall (@ 16" inch contact area I'll model). Clay or lime renders(4 inches thick) or a 3/8 plywood siding (T&G panels, laps) would give better braced wall or any other continuous wall sheathing if we can figure how to attach.

Roof: 6:12 gabled, 2 x 12's will probably span ok I'll check, infilled with an experimental haycrete (clay, type S lime, r~1.5/inch or r-36). Resting on a 2 x 12 bond beam/birds mouth, mortared and 3/4" D wood dowel pined(I'll specify OC), Simpson hurricane ties(for high winds/open door). Cladding I dunno?

Foundation: 2' deep X 2' wide rubble trench, french drain.

Floor: I dunno earth or Jay can help, not tied to the walls.

Open door 10' wide, one experimental window.

If you don't have the time or $ for this soon let me know since I'll be investing some valuable time into the model which is going to be a strange one( hay bale is not a library material so I need to create it). It will help me get better with Chief Architect even though I have enough on plate with my own design.

Anyone sees a better design let me know otherwise I'll get to modeling when I have time.
 
Kittum Daniel
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Terry Ruth wrote:Walls: Let's use 1.5' D X 4'(2 courses x 8' tall) @ 1150 lbs dry weight ea, 1400 lbs wet max weight @ 20% MC, stacked & staggered, load bearing(wood dowel pined(I'll specify OC), ~r-30 whole wall (@ 16" inch contact area I'll model). Clay or lime renders(4 inches thick) or a 3/8 plywood siding (T&G panels, laps) would give better braced wall or any other continuous wall sheathing if we can figure how to attach.

Roof: 6:12 gabled, 2 x 12's will probably span ok I'll check, infilled with an experimental haycrete (clay, type S lime, r~1.5/inch or r-36). Resting on a 2 x 12 bond beam/birds mouth, mortared and 3/4" D wood dowel pined(I'll specify OC), Simpson hurricane ties(for high winds/open door). Cladding I dunno?

Foundation: 2' deep X 2' wide rubble trench, french drain.

Floor: I dunno earth or Jay can help, not tied to the walls.

Open door 10' wide, one experimental window.

If you don't have the time or $ for this soon let me know since I'll be investing some valuable time into the model which is going to be a strange one( hay bale is not a library material so I need to create it). It will help me get better with Chief Architect even though I have enough on plate with my own design.

Anyone sees a better design let me know otherwise I'll get to modeling when I have time.


All sounds good except for the the 1.5' (1 foot and 6 inch) diameter bales. The smallest diameter we can make with any amount of density is 30 inch.

The first 20 inches of the baleer's chamber is uncompressed to allow the hay to tumble and begin to roll when starting a new bale. At about 20 inches the giant tension arm comes into play and crushes the soft core as more hay is added into that space and then the bale begins to grow after that. To make consistent size bales I will need to rely on the auto-tie system which has a lowest setting of 30 inch. The bailer monitor inside the tractor will alarm. I stop forward motion but maintain full PTO speed while the net wrap automatically feeds for a selected number of seconds. The monitor will beep another alert when the wrapping process is finished. The finished bale is dumped and off we go again. I suspect the whole process for making each bale with 30 inch diameter with my slow baler will be about 2 and 1/2 minuets with about half the time used wrapping the bale.

I suspect that 30" inches with dead dry Johnson Grass they might weigh 200 to 275 pounds each perhaps less if the grass is extremely dry.

I have some hay to bale tomorrow and I plan to produce a few "prototype" bales that we can play with. The prototypes will not be wasted because in 45 days we may be feeding this hay.

Overall I am excited with the mental picture of you idea. The phrase of "infilled with an experimental haycrete" might just get you credit for coining a new word!
 
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