Monday, June 12, 2006

Site: Earth Building Association of New Zealand

Straw Bale
Straw bale houses have enormously good insulation values, and you can build them with relative ease and speed. They may be load-bearing, but more often they incorporate a post-and-beam frame. The bales are finished with a coat of plaster - often earth-based.
The design issues are similar to earth buildings, but the need to avoid moisture and weathering is even more crucial. The bales must be dry before installation and remain dry throughout their life, as once wet they are more likely to compost than dry out. The construction detailing and plaster coatings make or break straw bale construction.
Straw bale houses were developed in America and are rising in popularity. However the Earth Building Standards Committee declined to write a straw bale standard at this stage because of the very small number of built examples in New Zealand or Australia to "standardise". If you wanted to build a straw bale house you would need to engage an experienced designer, and do the analysis to apply for a building permit as an "Alternative Solution" under the Building Code.

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