In previous postings we have discussed some of the design rationale and construction methodologies employed and advocated by our company. This is a more detailed analysis of technologies and materials used from foundation to roof.
Not too long ago the construction of a straw bale house involved the design of a custom foundation, sometimes complex and unorthodox framing, shimming trusses and rafters on an undulating box beam on a load bearing straw bale wall, and a host of other quirky construction methods not often encountered by professional builders and home owners. Part to our mandate has been to make straw bale construction simpler and more accessible.
Most of the homes we design are constructed on conventional basements; an eight inch concrete wall and strip footings with a standard I joist floor system. This is the same foundation most standard … Read More »
Straw bales as a choice in new housing is distinctly different from virtually all new products developed to enhance the efficiency of home construction from a structural, energy, environmental or cost efficiency perspective. New building products are often developed by large companies through research and development, then marketed, branded and patented. Straw bale, and its applications in house construction, is a grass roots technology, developed by small builders, home owners and ‘do-it-yourself-ers’ exploring a means of providing housing that is cost effective using local, renewable materials for energy-efficient, healthy homes.
Testing in Canada by CMHC and other housing certification agencies in the United States (with ASTM testing) have confirmed and quantified the many exceptional qualities of straw bale construction such as fire resistance, insulation properties, and sound attenuation. The technology is not propitiatory, brandable or patentable by any individual … Read More »
A commentary in the recent edition of Fine Homebuilding Magazine’s ‘Energy-Smart Homes’ (Winter 2013) points out the need for more homes designed and built with energy-efficiency and other sustainable principles that are within the reach of the average home owner.
Residential designer and project manager Michael Maines explains the premise of the ‘Pretty Good House’, “It’s about finding the sweet spot between initial cost and long-term savings, paying attention to critical details while maintaining ease of construction, providing energy-efficiency without ignoring aesthetics, and allowing for comfort while maintaining reasonable size.”
Programs like Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) and Passivhaus Institute are examples of building standards achieving the highest levels when it comes to sustainability. While they are admirable targets for many buildings, your average home owner may not have the desire or budget to attain or adhere to the strict … Read More »
Stevenson Residence owner-built project, 2011.
Framing and box columns under construction (May 2011)
Framing and box column installation (May 2011)
East side and wrap-around veranda deck
Finished exterior stucco over straw bales
Straw bale interior ‘columns’ frame the terrace doors