There are a number of reasons we have chosen to build a straw-bale house: to downsize and retire to a smaller property; to be practically involved in the building process and to build an inexpensive home; to continue a lifetime of care and concern for the natural environment and to live in a house that is ecologically sustainable with a zero carbon footprint.
Straw has amazing properties: it is warm, breathable, extremely insulating, and thermally and acoustically efficient. It is also structurally strong. Used with lime and clay plasters, a straw house is healthy, non-toxic and hygienic, giving a cosy and warm space in which to live. It is quick to build, affordable, fire resistant and CO2 negative. (The CO2 remains stored in the straw for the life of the house). Often the straw (and the other natural materials used such as wood, sheep’s wool and hemp) can be locally sourced thus saving on transport costs. Very little heating is required as straw stores latent heat so is very cost effective. Straw is also beautiful and tactile! All the materials come from the earth and can return to the earth in a natural cycle.
The building of a straw house takes a lot of labour and is a great way to build communities of like-minded folk, all working together outside, learning and sharing skills, and building a beautiful home. Great fun.
If following this path encourages and inspires others, and shows what can be done with renewable and local resources, and that building a house doesn’t have to ‘cost the Earth’, then that will be our small contribution to a more sustainable world.
For anyone who is interested in the building of straw-bale houses, Barbara Jones’ book ‘Building with Straw bales – A practical manual for self-builders and architects’ (Green Books 2015) is an excellent read. Barbara is a pioneer of straw-bale building and it is a very inspiring book. She also runs courses in straw-bale building and lime and clay plasters (in Scotland and England) from her company School of Natural Building.
If anyone reading this would like to be involved in our straw-bale house building (depending on the Coronavirus, 2021 or 2022) then please get in touch via Kasha at Sustainable Selkirk. We welcome all those who are interested in a more sustainable way of making homes.
JA November 2020