However, with building regulations likely to become more stringent in the coming years and most ultra low energy buildings demanding a lot of insulation anyway, this space is not out of the ordinary. Unless in a densely populated area, sacrificing an extra 10cm or so in thickness to use a low embodied material is not normally a big issue. Mark talks about non-load bearing structures — essentially where there's a framed building with straw bales in between — and how with an engineered frame that's been tested accordingly and infill panels, there is no limit to the number of floors of a building.
With a load bearing structure, on the whole they are only single or double storey buildings.
BSD-112: Building Science for Strawbale Buildings
Mark says there are some examples with three storeys but it's more like a half storey with a low eave a chalet bungalow , that reduces some of the risk and some of the heights of the straw. This also makes better use of the materials because you are occupying half a roof space.
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Although Mark had no information on whether straw bale houses can be valued alongside brick and block houses, he suggested that most people are fulfilling a dream to live this way and might stay in their new homes for many years. Some mortgage companies will insist on a building warranty which can be obtained from warranty companies. Designing the building from scratch with good environmental considerations can help bring the price down, particularly if you're making your own clay plaster or if you use reclaimed materials, etc.
So, comparing like-for-like brick and block house to a straw bale house, even if the straw bales were half the price, it's not a massive reduction in the cost of the build.
Straw Bale Wall
Mark points out that designing a house to the size of your needs rather than to that of your greed will really reduce costs. Also, having a good thermal performance in the floor and the roof, and high performance windows that benefit from solar gain. Plus, installing high efficiency heating, lighting and hot water systems will all contribute to lowering the running costs. Mark sums up building with straw bales as friendly and fun, and it ticks all the environmental boxes!
HPH : Why Build a House with Straw Bales? – with Mark Saich from Green Building Solutions
He does recommend that it should be guided DIY, whereby you engage the services of someone who understands how to design buildings with straw and ideally someone with practical experience, too. Neglecting this could be costly for the building both in energy terms and longevity.
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As well as consulting on ecological building, Mark runs training courses on bale building as well as spoon carving, clay plastering, etc. Download a transcript of the interview with Mark Saich. Ben talks about reading a short story on climate change during his holiday. It's less than 15 pages and is well worth reading.
Ben Adam-Smith is the owner of Regen Media, a UK production company that specialises in creating video and audio for the construction industry. He also helps other self-builders create better homes, having built his own home to Passivhaus standard. If you want to build a house then the first thing you need to do is find land.
Suitable parcels might be few and far between. And when you do find one, you could face fierce competition. Not only from other self builders, but also developers with deep pockets and bags of knowhow.
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Our free course will lead you through how you find your dream plot. Can you have a comfortable, healthy home with low running costs. Maybe one of the settlers was familiar with the New England method of using stacked hay bales to insulate blocks of ice. Maybe someone was inspired by the big bundles of straw produced by the recently invented mechanical baler.
At some point in the late s, the settlers started building houses, schools and churches out of straw bales.
Piling one bale on top of another, they built square or rectangular one-story dwellings covered by a simple, sloped roof. Those first buildings were not meant to be permanent.
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Many weren't. One of the oldest recorded straw bale buildings was a one-room schoolhouse built in or Cows ate the school in because the walls weren't plastered. However, once the settlers started to apply plaster to the walls, they found that these temporary houses could keep them cool in the summer and warm in the winter.
The homes could withstand the high winds of the Nebraska prairie, and they were quiet as well. Historians investigating the Sandhills homes spoke with one woman who recalled her parents playing cards in their straw bale house, oblivious to the tornado raging outside [source: Hammett ].
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These days, we're more likely to think of the story of the little pig who threw some straw together and called it a house, only to have the big, bad wolf huff and puff and blow the structure down. However, if the pig had had access to a baler and some plaster, he would have had a sturdy home.