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Thread: Straw Bale Home?

  1. #1
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    Default Straw Bale Home?

    Thanks for all the information on here. I learn new stuff every day thanks to you guys.

    We are considering building a straw bale home and wanted to see if anyone here has done it before. I have heard of one in Palmer and there about 4 around fairbanks. ANyone know the exact location? The cold climate research center had pretty good write ups about the 4 up north. Anyone know of any others in southcentral? I have found quite a bit of info on the net, but still haven't talked to anyone who has built one. Most of the ones I see are about 500sf, but we would like to build a larger one, about 1800 sf total (including garage). It sounds like it works pretty well as long as measures are taken to keep the straw dry all the time, so it will have large overhangs and be well off the grade. Also does anyone know of a good straw source for building, needs to be less than 14% moisture content per bale?

    Also wanted to know about biolet toilets. These seem to pretty cool systems, just wanted to know if they work well up here? Also, does anyone know if a well and septic is required in the Municipality of Anchorage. We are barely in the MOA and will just need a land use permit. We were considering a couple biolets and rainwater/snow collection and a water storage tank (haul if we have to) Water is about 600' down so a well is pretty spendy and the production in the area is pretty low rates. We are also on solid bedrock, so we need alternatives to septic, but they eventually fail and would rather not do a mound system, since it is only a matter of time before faillure on that system. Thanks for any info you can provide.

    Thanks

  2. #2
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    Arcti-moose,

    Don't have any info on the hay bale house but do have info on the toilet. I have a biolet composter and a sunmar. I would never get another Biolet at least the kind with a rake agitator. The Sunmar has a rotating drum and works much better. I have had the sunmar for 10 years and the biolet for 5-6 years and never liked it, too much maintenance and poor agitation.

    There is a Sunmar dealer in Anchorage and have some models on hand.

    Hope this helps.

    George

  3. #3

    Default Hay Bale House

    The person that you are thinking in the Palmer area is Jim Sikes and he lives up on Lazy Mountain area. Do not know a contact number but if you google the name you might be able to come up with a contact number as he hsa run for office several times under the Green party. Hope this helps.

  4. #4
    Member Delta Tenderfoot's Avatar
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    Red face Staw House in BC

    There is an article in Harrowsmith magizine about a couple who built one in nothern BC. http://www.harrowsmithcountrylife.ca/index.php

    I think Amazon has a collection of atricles on them from Harrowsmith. Alberta government has workshops in construction of straw homes.

    I would LOVE to build one. My wife said house or boat... My current home is just fine.

  5. #5

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    I helped build a SB shop as part of a class many years ago on the Palmer-Wasilla hwy area.
    I haven't been back by there in years so don't know how its doing. I had planned to build a house from it but never did.

  6. #6

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    Naturita, Colorado, built the biggest one I've ever seen for their public library. I'd guess it's something like 5,000 square feet. That link is to their chamber of commerce, and they can probably help you track down someone who knows construction details. Jim Boyd, the Soil Conservation Service rep for that area, and his wife built one for themselves- I don't recall how big, but I know it wasn't huge. He told me the basic construction was okay, but the finish work nearly killed him- just took forever and it was really fiddly. When I asked if he'd ever do it again, he said Notonlynobuthellno!!!!

  7. #7
    Member lynch's Avatar
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    Default straw vs. hay

    Be care full, a couple of posters responded with comments about hay. I think you might already know the difference but in case you don't, make sure you use straw and not hay. Hay is dried grass or alfalfa usually and straw will be the dried stalks from grain plants like barley or oats for example. Straw is hollow and what you would want for insulation. I would suggest Delta for straw. I know a couple of the bigger farms out there if you want you can P.M. me for there contact info. They have lots of straw.
    "Bark,bark,bark,sniff,sniff,bark,and bark" - Lynchs Blue Roan Lynch E.C.K.

  8. #8
    Sponsor ADfields's Avatar
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    The city of Tucson Arizona was the first to include straw bale in its coeds and used to print info packs and hand them out at the building permit office. That would be a good place to check for info. Tucson is quite a hot spot for straw bale. When they did the coeds down there they excluded structural straw walls because all the bales alone couldn't meet the roof load requirements. They would compress unevenly destabilizing the roof and the engineering numbers all come in too low. They get about 6" of snow every 20 years and coed is only 25 or 30 pounds roof load there. I wouldn’t do structural straw walls in Alaska with our snow, it has been done in Canada and maybe here also but I would do infill like Tucson coed. They do infill straw between post walls, stucco out and plaster inside. They sheath the roof, cover with heavy plastic for vapor, put bales on, frame rafters on the bales for structure and ventilation, sheath again, and roof as normal. It makes a very good super insolated strong house, something like R60 if I remember.
    Andy
    On the web= C-lazy-F.co
    Email= Andy@C-lazy-F.co
    Call/Text 602-315-2406
    Phoenix Arizona

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    I lived in a straw bale house up in the moutains of arizona for about 3 years. We averaged 100" of snow and below freezing temps were very common. We also delt with temperature swings of 30 degrees plus from day to night so expansion and contraction was extreme. I did not build the house, but I would like to some day. I was impressed. It was 1250 sq ft and it heated with one small wood stove and held heat more efficient than the house I am living in now which was recently weatherized. Go for the straw bale you will not be dissapointed.

  10. #10
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    while intriguing, I have looked at numerous SB-insulated houses in Alaska and decided that it is an awkward building material on the whole.

    while the cost for the r-value is certainly a bargain, the added complexity of designing a structure around the insulating material is a bit awkward for most builders, and I think it will continue to remain a novelty because of that.

    If one is in a climate like much of the SW where stucco siding is acceptable than fine, but in Alaska conditions Straw Balres make for awkward siding installation and I think the lifespan is questionable as unproven over the long term. (straw works great for sleddogs here, but it gets changed often)


    I like my conventionally framed walls with r-19 fiberglass batts, furred 2 1/2" in (to house 2" polystyrene foam and all wiring inside the vapor retarder) and furred siding out 3/4". I am just under r-30 with a compact but overly adequate 10" thick wall.

    the REMOTE wall system is also an excellent choice (all insulation exterior to structure) and can work with straw bales but I think foam is a much better mateiral over the long term, not needing nearly as thick walls for the same r value. straw bale insulation is novel, but I think you're best off with log if you want simple to work with materials with proven structural value in our climate. SB make things a lot more complicated and I do not think it provides any substantial benefits that other materials do not.


    SB has its place and certianly can be the best material for the job in many instances. there is no harm in experimenting and I mean no disrespect for those who have gone this route. but I think a lot of challenges come with it and I wonder about that first little pig and whether he was jealous of his other brothers.

  11. #11
    Sponsor ADfields's Avatar
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    andweav I completely agree with everything you said. Your R30 rated foam is likely better in real life cold clement because it's not air and moisture permeable so is always a true R30 in any weather. Even better yet is stress skin panels but they are also hard to work with.

    The only advantage I see to straw bale is very low material cost for the self builder that has their own labor free. The lack of a surface to apply an Alaska suitable siding to and the reduced floor you get under the roof make it not worth doing here for me. I do think it would make a great temporary shelter to live in while you build a house though.
    Andy
    On the web= C-lazy-F.co
    Email= Andy@C-lazy-F.co
    Call/Text 602-315-2406
    Phoenix Arizona

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    Default Thanks for all the info

    Thanks for the input on the SB Construction Techniques. We were thinking basically a heavy timber structure with SB infill. Straw Bales can be used structurally but they will eventually compress over time with heavy snow loads from what I have read and they are difficult to get approved by permitting agencies. I have seem some that only do the plaster on the inside and do a more traditional siding on the exterior, such as metal siding or hardi-plank siding rather than stucco and they look pretty attractive, especially when the materials vary and are broken up. We really like the R-value that you get from SB and with the weight SB construction is great for the wind and from what I have read have a high STC value, so they are very quiet.

    We are thinking we may want to experiment with a garage first before tackling the house and need to check out the references that were listed in this posting. I haven't read about them, but I have read a lot about other houses, but they are typically not in Alaska or even a similiar environment. It seems large overhangs and a way to get the SB off the concrete is the way to go. Thanks again.

  13. #13
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    don't make the straw walls loadbearing.
    Heavy beam or timber frame and fill in with straw.

  14. #14
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    don't make the straw walls loadbearing.
    Heavy beam or timber frame and fill in with straw.
    like modern adobe....

  15. #15

    Default straw bale

    For info on strawbale building contact Jim Sikes of Palmer as he is living in one and has a lot of knowladge in that subject. His number is 745-6962

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