The construction industry is one of the biggest contributors to global warming and it puts a huge demand on our natural resources, making
our current way of living unsustainable. Building with straw and natural materials isn’t new, straw, earth and timber have been used for shelter for thousands of years. When baling equipment was invented in the 1800s, straw could be compressed into bales and these were soon used as big building blocks, with straw bale buildings having a successful history now dating back over 100 years.
Why isn’t strawbale construction building momentum? Is it seen as a primitive construction method or are consumers not informed about the advantages it has to offer as a modern day construction method. Straw is a renewable resource and is regenerated once or twice a year, it is a by product and as long as we need grain as a food source, we have straw. Straw is seen as waste and even has to be burned to dispose of excess amounts adding to greenhouse gasses.
Strawbale walls have a high thermal capacity, and when rendered they are durable and strong. The render actually works as a thermal mass and regulates the internal building temperature, allowing the walls to breathe naturally. The straw walls when rendered have a massive insulation factor and this is sometimes around 3 times better than a conventional wall system. Straw is a natural, organic, no chemical building solution with a soft, and honest appearance. Strawbale building is practical, cost effective, simple to work with, it reduces noise, is usually locally sourced and is incredibly sustainable. Walls can be load bearing or non load bearing, the finish can be as lumpy or smooth as you like for an organic or modern appearance and in any colour render. You can have skirting and architraves or these can be eliminated, deep window sills that double as a shelf or seat, flat or steep roofs, plaster or render internals. Render can be cement, lime, earthen and acrylic.
Strawbale walls have passed Australian Bushfire testing and Council approval should be as straight forward as most approvals. Strawbale walls can be built on a slab on ground or timber floor off the ground. Straw is not a food source for termites and an excellent choice for a natural, renewable, functional, building material. Strawbale building is a great option for owner builders, however the design is crutial, it has to be solar passive, have big eaves for weather protection and thoughtful detailing.
Sure a strawbale home may cost more than a project home, however the huge advantages outweigh the initial lower cost. How much are we supporting our materialistic lifestyles by the materials and products we currently select in our buildings? How sustainable and green are some of our new building
materials? Are we just being green washed by these fancy new materials and products? How much of the focus is on efficiency, energy savings and
creating a healthy living environment for the future?