The Low Down On Green Living
November 6th, 2007
Our friend Andrew Morrison, of Strawbale.com,has written a piece to educate us on this great green builiding technique. Read and learn about Straw bale construction–it’s eco-smart and beautiful, too!
Straw bale construction is one of the most effective and appealing green building technologies available today. The fact that straw bales are a waste product from the agricultural industry helps to push them to the top of the list for recycled or reusable material. Each year millions of tons of waste straw are burned to remove it from the fields. The smoke from these fires creates a great deal of particulate air pollution. Baling the straw and using it to build houses reduces the amount of straw that is burnt each season and ultimately improves air quality.
From the beginning of the process, straw bales are a healthy alternative to conventional building products. They do not contain any chemical binders or glues and do not off gas. Perhaps the most commonly known attribute of straw bale construction is the high efficiency of the walls once constructed. With an R-Value of upwards of R-40 (R value is the measure of energy efficiency used in the construction industry for walls, floors and ceilings) bale walls provide nearly three times the efficiency of a standard wall assembly. This means considerably lower heating and cooling bills and less fuel required to provide those amenities. This high level of efficiency reduces the owner’s carbon footprint by limiting the amount of heating and cooling necessary for the home. Imagine building with a material that lowers global warming on both ends of its life cycle.
Another large advantage of building with bales is found the moment someone walks into a bale home: the beauty of the building system. The natural curves and soft lines of the bale walls are like no other building system. That natural beauty translates into a calm energy that fills the room and the occupants with a sense of peace. Along with the natural beauty comes a natural sense of quiet. The bales provide effective soundproofing that insulates the home owner from the often loud World outside.
A somewhat surprising statistic for most people is the way bale wall assemblies handle fire. Many people assume they would be at increased risk of fire damage when in fact, a bale home has three times the fire resistance of a conventional home. The extra resistance is in the plaster skins and the density of the bales themselves. Imagine, for example, trying to burn a phone book with a match or lighter. That is not easily done because there is not enough oxygen in between the sheets of paper to sustain the flame. The same is true of bales. They are densely packed and thus cannot support flame spread. Now wrap those densely packed bales in over one inch of plaster on each side of the wall and you have a fire resistant system that out performs standard construction techniques three to one.
The wall color is in the plaster, so repainting is not an issue either. Although the walls can be painted should you decide on a new color palette for your home.
There is a lot of information out there about straw bale construction; however, much of it is outdated. The techniques used to build with bales change rapidly as new ideas and practices come to light. The most up to date information is available at www.StrawBale.com. The site offers a lot of free information which is updated two to three times a week. There are video posts, articles, audio podcasts, photo galleries, an E-Course, and more. In addition, you can find access to instructional DVDs from this site and links to resources all over the World in both straw bale construction and the broader green construction market. If you are interested in building with bales, this is the best place to learn, practice and complete your efforts.
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