Straw bale construction is a way to use an infinitely renewable agricultural waste product to build beautiful, energy efficient, and incredibly strong homes and buildings.
Straw bale wall panels act as large structural insulated panels. They consist at their essence of stacked straw bales coated with two or more coats of plaster. The plaster skins bear the building loads and are stabilized by the straw bales which prevent ths skins from buckling under load. The straw bales insulate the panel and are supported by the plaster skins which reduce creep (settling) of the bales. The plaster is hydrophilic and moderates the moisture content of the wall panel. The entire system provides sufficiency of compliance with the requirements of Part 5 and Part 9 of the Ontario Building Code (BCC 07-24-1153.)
Straw bale buildings look like stucco buildings with a smoother wall surface. They have an old world look with thick exterior walls and beautiful interior window details. They can fit well into any neighbourhood urban, suburban, or rural.
The possibilities are nearly endless. Straw bales have been used to build everything from 100 square foot sheds to 3,000 square foot full commercial buildings to 12,000 square foot agricultural buildings. Ontario has bale buildings that are rectangular, round, and free form from one to three storeys.
Straw bale buidlings are 80% conventional. The foundation system, roof, interior structure, electical, plumbing, appliances, and fixtures, windows and doors are all the same as in a conventional building. The exterior wall system is the only necessarily non-conventional component of the building. In most cases the exterior wall system costs virtually the same as a conventional exterior wall system which makes the overall cost of the building virtually identical to a similar conventional building with similar finishes and systems in the same location.
It is possible to save money while building any building (straw bale, conventional, or other alternative buiding methods) by doing some or all of the work yourself. It is also possible to save money by using reclaimed building materials.