I just have to weigh in on this. We built a strawbale house from '95 to '97 on our acreage here in Wyoming. I have not regretted it. Yes, there are some things I would do differently, but strawbales make a lot of sense in dry (less then 30" a year) climes. Our bales were purchased from a local farmer, and were trucked about 30 miles. They cost less than $2.00 each. They weren't 'custom', whatever that is. Basically, we eye-balled them to make sure they were dry, clean, not moldy, tightened them up as needed and started stackin' 'em. Strawbale construction is not rocket science, and from all I've read on the web, I have the impression that people are over thinking it a wee bit.
We built our house back when building codes weren't being enforced in our county, but we did have a few contractors come through and make suggestions for improvements. We took notes and incorporated all of these suggestions we could afford. We did have the electrical inspected as well, since I did it with a book in one hand and a screw-driver in the other. And, I had to satisfy myself that bales were sufficiently fire safe (I was a firefighter at the time) so I doused one with gasoline in my driveway, and lit it. The upshot is: bales are self-extinguishing as long as their ties don't come apart, introducing more air into the straw. My bales are wire-tied, which isn't typical anymore, but was still common in our area at that time. Also, our bales are small by current standards: 18" W x 16" H x 36"- 42" L and weighing only 40 to 50 pounds each. Our finished walls are about 20" wide, and the bales are notched and fitted into a pole barn frame. They are not load-bearing.
It was simple to do, but not easy in the sense that it was done quickly, or without lots of sweat labor. But hell, what are people for, right? Work is life, and life is work. Anyone who says different is selling something. If I had to do it over again, I would build on a basement, use a full bale width wood frame, and plan the wall openings so no bale notching was needed. I would also put steel on the roof instead of asphalt shingles. They blow away too often in my area. Other than that, I'm pretty happy with it. It is easy to heat, easy to cool, and you can't hear the wind howl like you can in a frame dwelling. I can guarantee no damn wolf is ever going to blow this straw house down. Also, it looks lumpy and quaint, like a proper peasant's cottage should. It only cost $35 bucks a square foot, at a time when new construction was going for $90 to $100 a square foot. Best of all, our four kids who are now adults living in a big city, love to visit mom and dad, and never tire of wistfully dreaming about their own 'bale house, 'someday'. How many children of suburbia can say that?
I have only one regret. I wish I had payed off the land before I started it. If I had, we would be mortgage free now. But, our mortgage is still a pittance compared to rent or buying in today's market, so overall I can't complain.