Martin Monhart House
Martin Monhart House, built 1925, Nebraska

Will Straw Buildings Blow Down?  Straw buildings are incredibly robust. the bales are compressed and held in place by the design of the building. The walls are protected not only by the render, but by a generous overhang of the roof. The bale aspect of the walls begins 18″ off the ground. Even some of the earliest, most primitive straw buildings are still standing, 130 years on. Meanwhile, use of straw is being pioneered in the Pakistan earthquake zones because of it’s strength against snow loads coupled with its flexibility to withstand earth movement.

Will Straw Houses Burn Down?  Experience from Australia shows that subject to the fiercest bush fires, straw bales are the only parts left standing when the rest of the house has been incinerated. Why is this?  It’s quite simply because the straw is packed so tightly that there is not enough oxygen present in the wall to enable it to burn. This is experience is borne out in controlled fire tests carried out in the UK, the USA and Australia.

Will Straw Houses Rot with Damp?  

straw bale removed from 100 year old house
Straw bale removed from 100 year old house

During construction, it is very important that the straw is kept dry.  However, it is also a fact that bales can recover from more than 60% moisture content.  To reach this level is almost unimaginable in normal circumstances. By plastering directly onto the straw, an extremely strong mechanical bond is formed.  The possibility of water ingress in minimised and the potential for drying out is maximised.

The bale pictured here was removed from a 100 yr old “Nebraska” style (that is, load-bearing, rather than timber frame walls) house. It looks almost as it did when it was put in the wall.