Published on March 5, 2014
INTRODUCTION Straw bale construction is a building method that uses bales of straw as structural element Straw is nothing but a dry stalk of cereal plant This construction method is commonly used in natural building or brown construction projects Straw houses have been built on the African plain since the Paleolithic era Straw bale building typically consists of stacking rows of bales on a raised footing or foundation with a moisture barrier Straw bale is most commonly used in thatching roofs
ADVANTAGES Renewable nature of straw Doesn’t cost much Easy availability Naturally fire retardant High insulation value
DISAVANTAGES Successibility to rot Difficulty of obtaining insurance coverage High space requirement for the straw itself Bank is often unwilling to finance straw bale home which have unpredictable resale value This type of green building is uncommon. Most contractors are unfamiliar with straw bale building
STRAW BALE BUILDING
HUMIDITY AND MOISTURE moisture is the biggest risk to straw bale construction wet bales may decompose and this will reduce their strength, reduce the level of insulation, may create unhealthy levels of bacteria and create costly and inconvenient repairs The breaking point of the moisture tolerance of straw is typically said to be a 20% moisture-by-weight which is the necessary level of moisture to support fungus .
PRECAUTIONS During construction the bales must be kept as dry as possible at all times Wall building should preferably be done in the dry season and the roof structure should go on as quickly as possible The most vulnerable parts of a straw bale wall are the tops and the bottom, which must be protected with an adequate moisture barrier.
The bale walls should be raised above ground level on a masonry plinth. The sides of bale walls are less problematic and buildings left unplastered and subjected to rain and snow have shown virtually no signs of deterioration. The problem arises when moisture becomes trapped within the walls. For this reason, it is important to allow the bales to yellow or season before plastering is begun.
RESISTANCE TO PEST Straw bales are thick and dense enough to keep out many kinds of pests a well-applied and maintained coat of plaster denies access to even the smallest pests. Further more straw is a dead material of no nutritional value and thus insects are not attracted to it.
An added precaution would be to treat the bales with a boron solution, which acts as an insect repellent Termites like moist damp conditions When termites do manage to enter a wall, they tend to bypass the straw and attack any wooden studs. In termite prone areas it is recommended that a solid foundation and termite shield – such as a galvanized metal flashing – be used.
RESISTANCE TO FIRE Straw bale structures have proven to be resistance to Fire As straw bales are firmly compacted, they do not hold enough oxygen to facilitate combustion. Straw bales exposed to fire will smoulder and char, but will not burn. Extensive fire tests have been conducted on straw bale structures by the National Research Council of Canada and by the State of New Mexico, and The results of these tests have proven that a straw bale is a far greater fireresistant assembly than a wood frame wall Fire retardants such as Boron may be used in high-risk areas, and as a further deterrent for termites and pests.
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