ProVillage


ECO-BUILDING – PART 6: DESIGN REQUIREMENTS FOR STRAW BALE

Design Styles

Before the final decision is made, many variables have to be considered before that final design, such as weather conditions. If there is a lot of rain in the location – either seasonally or throughout the year – a home designed for a place which gets little or no rain may not be the appropriate option for the design. The style and details of the design is important for the efficiency of the home, so this should be considered thoroughly and with time. This is a process which should not be rushed and the characteristics of the property should also be taken into consideration.

Visiting and evaluating the site and property

It can be considered vital to understand the property before and during the design-process. If there are no hurries in the design, one has the opportunity to study how the land interacts during the year. One could discover later on during the project that the location is a wind tunnel for most of the year or that some other place would have suited better in terms of solar power and ventilation.

All this is found out through experience.

Water considerations

Pay attention to how the water flows on the property. Study if there are any bodies of water which are influential to the planning and find out how they behave. What is the situation of the ground water? – and if you are not connected to the network of the city, what are the possibilities of building a well?

Some points to consider are also the leach field for the septic system, and where and how the grey and black water is treated.

The well for drinking water must be situated a safe distance away from these and it might be best to keep the well uphill from the drain field where waste water is drained to. These are one of the reasons why topographic knowledge of the topography is essential in the planning.

In addition, a possible field should be close enough to minimize costs.

Solar trackingsolar panelo and sun

The sun is vital for an efficient home. It is possible to harness the suns energy for electric and heating needs. How does the sun behave towards the land during the different times of the year? These points affect the size and need for the roof overhangs of the building and the placing of solar panels. Further investigating comes in regarding the trees, prevailing winds and the sloping of the land.

Other aspects on design

When you know your land and the positioning of your house, it is time to start designing. Pay attention to window placement and size, since these affect the heating costs. Straw bales are ideal for sound proofing and for insulation, so this information with additional info on light and ventilation creates balanced results.

It is more economical to design with the land: taking in mind to topography, water wind, the possibilities with solar issues and flora. It is also more beneficial to take into consideration to have the home as a part of the landscape.

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ECO-BUILDING – PART 5: THE PROS OF BUILDING WITH STRAW BALES

Why build with straw bales? It can be said with great certainty that tens of thousands of people have been aroused to building their homes or other constructions with straw bales around the world. Until now, it has come to our attention that all around the world there are projects going on involving straw bale building, and the number is surely to grow with the awareness of the pros of building with straw bales.

Below are a few points which speak for the methods of incorporating straw when building with straw bales.

Energy efficiency

thermo slimAs the costs for heating and cooling rise, energy efficiency is gaining more and more attention.  It is said that a well designed and built straw bale home can lower the heating costs by 70 % compared to a conventional home. It can be considered as a significant saving.

Aesthetics

People are generally attracted to the thick walls which resemble medieval architecture or adobe homes in Latin America. A straw bale house has a totally different feel to living it, than a conventional house. The material is versatile enough to make various kinds of forms into the general building and firstly one just has to get to know the method in which way the combination of straw and other materials behave.

Acoustics/noise suppression
acoustics 004 png
Straw bale homes are remarkably quiet. The thick walls muffle sounds and diminish echoes. The most important aspects to take into consideration when planning a straw bale home is to get the correct balance of sound insulation, natural light and energy design.

At some locations around the world the technique of building strawhouses has been implemented when building recording studios. And it can be thought that workshops where noise producing machinery are operated, the strawbale walls would make conditions more bareable.

Fire rating

Homes built with straw are extremely fire resistant. A straw bale home is three times (3x) more resistant to fire than conventional homes – this is due to the fact that there is not enough oxygen in the bales for a fire to burn lively, and since the bales are covered with a thick and earthy render. In this case, one should think of a 5 cm layer of plaster covering the bales.

Environmental aspects

Millions of tons of straw is produced and burned every year. Instead, the straw can be used to produce a healthy and pleasant living environment. It also said that the amount of volatile organic compounds is less than in many other conventional buildings

See: VOC’s – Volatile organic compounds (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Volatile_organic_compound)

The ease of building

Everybody can learn to build with straw bales after a few guidelines are taken into consideration. When building with straw bales, the most difficult task would be the taking into consideration of the framing, electronics,  plumbing, etc…

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