Straw bale insulation is actually a great green building element. Here are some reasons why:
1. It’s renewable and sustainable.
2. Low embodied energy.
3. It requires less wood for the frame.
4. Great climate control.
In addition, “hould a fire get started, lab tests and experience have shown that foam insulations ignite at low temperatures and release poisonous fumes, and wood studs and trim will burn readily. But straw bales, compressed and sealed with plaster, are starved of oxygen and resist combustion.”
They work well, with an R value of 2.4 – 3.0 per inch, which is better than concrete, but not much else. Unfortunately, walls will have to be much thicker than usual to use straw, which is a bit impractical for existing homes. However, straw is inexpensive and very fire resistant, especially when packed with adobe.
Straw bale construction technology and testing has advanced significantly over the last 20 years and use of this technology is used in residential, commercial and institutional construction in the US and around the world, achieving the highest LEED ratings. Straw bale building technology is a powerful energy and resource efficient strategy that sequesters carbon, contributes to improved indoor air quality and makes use a abundant, low embodied energy material. For further information, see the U.S. Congressional Briefing on straw bale construction at http://www.eesi.org/062008_Straw-Bale_Construction.
I have always been fascinated by this building technique. I think its such a neat way to build a home and the insulation that you get is awesome. What do you think it will take to make this technique a widespread building technique.
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