Building with straw bales – How to do it

Martin Stengel (English) – Vienna, 26. June

Having a warm and safe home is one of our basic needs as human beings. Having this need met is essential to our wellbeing, our capacity to face the day with energy and joy and our hospitality.

Today the atmosphere and environment in which we live is more and more a matter of concern to home owners and designers. There is a growing body of knowledge on the harmful effects of living long-term with modern materials that give off minute but significant amounts of toxins, the so-called ‘sickbuilding syndrome’. Living in a straw house protects you from all that. It is a natural, breathable material that has no harmful effects. Straw bales are produced without any additional chemicals. They are one of the insulation materials that can be delivered in organic quality. Combined with a sensible choice of natural plasters and paints, it can positively enhance your quality of life.

Facing the fact, that human civilization is tremendously affecting our environment on the whole globe and changing the climate for the next generations, building with strawbales must be considered as an important possibility to reduce the impact of human consumption. As a renewable material straw bales bind carbon dioxide which is mainly responsible for the global warming. The production of an average one family straw bale building saves about 25 tons of CO2 compared to a just as well insulated building insulated with mineral wool. One can also say that the manufacturing energy of the mineral wool needed for the insulation of a one family house will last for building a straw bale house and also for heating it for about 10-15 years.

Partly due to its great insulation value and partly because of its organic nature, the inside of a strawbale house feels very different to a brick or stone one, having a cosy, warm quality to it and a pleasing look to the eye.

Under normal circumstances, the cost of straw bale buildings in Germany equals that of conventional buildings, though the walls cost 10-30% less than average. The real advantages are the sustainability of the production and demolition of the building materials, the low heating costs that last the entire lifespan of those buildings and the healthy environment created by the thick clay plastering. There is a high potential of lowering the actual monetary costs because of the possibility to do-it-yourself instead of paying experts to do it for you.

The building process furthers individual and collective empowerment by encouraging people to learn handicrafts as existential skills and offer whatever they are capable of to the collective building process, where even the children can participate. Offering this social-economic potential it is important to point out, that you must know what you do! Building with strawbales needs a care for certain physical criteria to be met in order to realize a well working and enduring construction. If you don’t have the knowledge needed, engage one expert to supervize the planning and the self-building process. The maintenance and supply of the buildings is cheap and can be provided self sufficiently from the natural surroundings.

Building with strawbales also means that the money that is needed is not given to industrial corporations that produce the building materials and for long transports, but that it is invested in the local agriculture and in the local workers that build the straw-bale-walls. Most of the costs for straw-bale-building are the wages for the people who build and plaster the walls. All construction principles and materials are available without paying licence fees to inventors or trade mark holders.

One of the biggest attributes of strawbale building is its capacity for creative fun, and its ability to allow you to design and build the sort of shape and space you’d really like. One can easily design buildings in a conventional and simple rectangular shape. On the other hand this material lends itself very well to curved and circular shapes, and can provide deep window seats, alcoves and niches due to the thickness of the bales. It’s also a very forgiving material, can be knocked back into shape fairly easily during wall-raising, doesn’t require absolute precision, and can make rounded as well as angular corners.

The presentation “Building with bales – How to do it” will give an overview and insights on all the main aspects on this modern and appropriate building technology. Different methods in raising walls are explained and important details to pay attention to are shown. Last but not least the beauty and broad variaty of existing examples from all over the world invite the audience to consider this technology to meet their personal housing needs in a sustainable way.

The Lecturer Martin Stengel works and lives in the ecovillage “Sieben Linden” – he is an experienced straw-bale house builder.

Key data:
Date: 26. Juni, 19.00
Adress: Vienna, concrete address will be published on the plattform as soon as possible
Costs: € 8,-; half-price for students
Registration: Ronny Wytek, e-mail:, Tel.: 03153/8253

Quelle: Keimblatt Ökodorf 

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