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Why Build With Strawbales & Earth

why strawbale
Some clients wonder about the benefits and the downsides of building with strawbales and earth. We’ve outlined some points here:

Why Build With Strawbales & Earth

What This Means

Straw bale homes are healthy homesThe materials we use are natural, they aren’t toxic, there is no off gassing and no carcinogenics. You can eat the earth and straw if you really want to!
Strawbale and earth walls breatheThat means they expand and contract depending on the climate and temperature. If it’s humid, the walls absorb the moisture. They are close to nature so are more natural for our bodies – as opposed to air conditioning which some believe, affects your health
Clay and lime renders have been used in building for centuries for many reasons including their ability to absorb impurities from the airYour home will be cleaner, purer and less polluted because the clay and lime clean the air for you. Which makes them good for people with allergies
They’re beautiful homes. Aesthetically, they’re so different to any other homeFor larger window sills, the rounded edges and the warmer/fuller feeling that you can’t get with ordinary walls. Most clients love the deep window sills
Strawbales are the world’s best insulation Strawbales have an insulation R value of around R8.1 in Australia. Most project homes have R1.8 in their external walls. As for acoustic qualities, strawbales insulate sounds from the outside, making them quiet and peaceful to live in
Reduced carbon footprintUsing natural, organic materials in your home traps carbon in your home meaning that your carbon footprint is extremely low. We generally achieve a “Gold Medal” on eTools (carbon usage of the entire building process)
Strawbales are sustainable As they are from Australia, from sustainable farms and areas, your home is sustainable from the source to the finished product.  If we can source materials from your site, we will! There aren’t any sweat shops, virgin forests or communities that are being exploited for their natural resources
Strawbale homes ‘feel’ completely different to an ordinary homeStrawbale and earth homes feel different. There are intangible qualities such as being calm, peaceful, light, airy which you just can’t really explain. These homes blend and marry around their owners.
Straw and earth help regulate the temperature in your homeTo keep your home warm in winter and cool in summer. We use insulation (strawbales) and thermal mass (solid earth walls) in different parts of your home in order to best regulate the temperature in your home. We use insulation and thermal mass with a good solar passive design to achieve this
Strawbale homes add value in way ordinary homes cannot They are unique homes and if finished to high standard, have fetched premium prices for those who have sold our strawbale homes in the past
Regulate humidity in your home naturallyThe humidity that humans find most comfortable is around 40-70% humidity, which these homes naturally keep within this range. An air conditioned home is a dry home and is around 12% humidity and a badly insulated home with dampness will be higher than 70%.
Lime is antibacterialWhich means that mould can’t grown on it. So long as you don’t have any water leaks and you don’t bring any mould into your home, it should be mould free
Strawbale homes allow you to be as creative or as conventional as you wantAs straw and earth are organic materials, clients can be as creative or conventional in their taste and style as they want. Some clients have put works of art within the walls, whereas other clients have made their strawbale walls as sharp as brick walls
Straw walls give you straight or curved edgesYou can choose between curved or straight edges around your window openings
You can add recycled materials Many of our clients want a refined look with character. You can add recycled timber posts or other features
You can have various colours in your earth/lime renderDepending on how you want to cover your rendered walls (there are many options), you can choose from a range of colours either painted on the render or you can choose a coloured render
High energy ratings, they’re very energy efficient and save you $Saves on power and water costs. If you have a solar passively designed home, you won’t have to spend so much money on energy costs.
Same cost as a conventionally built home as long as you’re comparing to the same qualityIf you compare a conventional home being built by a qualified, quality builder, with well insulated, solid walls (for example: EIFS or similar) where the home uses the best insulation and finishes, the cost will work out around the same price. If you were to compare to cheap homes with the bare minimum, then naturally a strawbale home will be more costly, unless you do a lot of the work.
Strawbale walls are made from organic materialsSo you will do less damage to the environment because the wall materials are sourced from natural resources.
Straw walls are fire, pest and weather proofWe seal our strawbale and earth walls to ensure they are weatherproofed and the walls keep out pests and fire. The CSIRO has fire tested the rendered wall system we use and they have withstood 900 degrees Celsius for 90 minutes!
Our strawbale homes meet governmental regulations – Australian Building Code and local governmentThe way we design and build our homes, means that they get passed by the relevant authorities without too many hitches. We prefer to build like a conventional home and then use natural materials. This makes it easier to get through the red tape as well as makes it easier and quicker to build
Strawbale homes are hand craftedThey are unique and are hand crafted. This is one of the reasons why they’re not as cheap as everything first thinks… because half the cost is in the hard work that our team has to do in order to build your home. We minimise any materials that come from overseas. Most of it comes from local resources.
Strawbale and earth homes have been around for centuriesEarth building is not a new concept. It’s seen as a new thing in the West as it is a skill which was forgotten once cement was discovered. There are strawbale buildings and homes in America which date the early 1900’s and are still standing today. It is a myth that this is a new way to build. This is actually an old age way of building and is re-surging in popularity as we go back to the old ways of building.
Doing your bit for the environmentNow that there are contemporary strawbale homes that are finished like conventional homes, people feel more confidence in doing their bit for the world and environment. If everyone had a sustainable, natural home… we could lower carbon emissions

 

 

Why Some People Are Afraid of a Strawbale Home

They’re ok because…

The perception for some, is that they will fall apart, rot or not be as strong as conventional homes.If rendered and sealed correctly, they will not fall apart. Just like a conventional home, we guarantee our workmanship and therefore the rendered walls. The last thing we want to do is redo any of our work. So we have procedures in place which give us consistent, quality results
Walls aren’t as hard as concrete or brick wallsThis is true, depending on the finished render you choose. Some lime renders are really tough and sturdy. You can patch the walls if they do get depressions or hairline cracks in them. We generally ask our clients to reseal their walls every 10 years to help the walls weather the sun and elements. Some people may not want to maintain their natural walls
Walls are not dead straight like a brick wallThe strawbale and earth walls we build are straight however there may be depressions and impurities in the walls.
Walls may crackYes, sure the walls may have hairline cracks, mainly where the render meets other materials, however we do our very best to reduce any cracks. You can patch the cracks at any time and they are not structural cracks. If you get cracks in cement renders of brick homes, that can be more of a problem than with earth render!
The strawbale walls may have different colour consistenciesYes, the walls may not be perfect in colour. It’s like a pair of jeans, they aren’t all one colour throughout, they are natural and may vary in colours, tones and textures.
Strawbale walls are not mentioned in the Building Code of Australia (BCA)Which means that we get an engineer to sign off on our strawbale walls. In general, we build our homes as post and beam, and then we infill between posts with the strawbales or earth. This alleviates many governmental problems and ensures we keep within the scope of the BCA
Strawbales homes in flame zones (highest category in fire zoning)Depending on discussions with Rural Fire Service (RFS), you can clad strawbale walls in Colorbond or other fire rated cladding if you find that your home is in a flame zone. Most homes are under BAL29 and that is relatively easy to work with. Many strawbale homes have been built in these fire zones
Some people may not want to upkeep or maintain their natural homeThis is true. For those that don’t ever want to look at a home, then turning on an air conditioner or a heater rather than manage the temperature of your home will be an easier solution. Likewise, they may not want to reseal their walls after 10 years or patch it if it ever gets a crack in it.
Relatively new building method??As mentioned, it is an old age way of building. However it is true that there are not many qualified builders who have experience in this way of building. So it means that you will be paying for mistakes and learning as you go if you choose a builder who doesn’t have any experience. If you prefer to go with someone with experience, then ensure they are a member of a professional institution, check they are licenced and also check they are an active member of a strawbale or earth organisation
Building your own home is toughDo your homework, do research and get experience before starting your own project.

The Essential Straw Bale Home Building Consumer Guides…

Four ‘must-have’ Reports When Building Any Straw Bale Home, Studio or Granny Flat

#1 The 65 Fundamental Building Steps
#2 Viva’s “Lickity Split” 2 Bedroom Plans
#3 Two Proven Lime Render Recipes
#4 Vital Budgeting Spreadsheet

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