Monday, February 21, 2011

Construction: Introduction to Straw Bale Building

Straw bale cabins and houses can be designed to look like traditional homes that one would typically see in any ordinary neighborhood. On the other hand, unlike building with conventional materials, straw bale structures often feature curved walls that are much easier on the eye and very comfortable to live in.

The following videos are intended to serve as a basic introduction to straw bale buildings. Watch out for the eco-groovies while watching some of these clips! They're often in there, although we're more attuned to cost savings, simplicity, and the possibility of teaching soldiers and vets how they could get a few of their buddies together and build their own affordable homes after learning how to do it at Valhalla.

With proper oversight, straw bale building methods can accommodate participation by those who have little or no construction experience (please keep in mind that for liability and other reasons, anyone under the age of 18 will not be allowed at Valhalla; this video is included for informational purposes only):

Straw bale buildings range from simple to elaborate, primative to fancy, and everything in between:

Debunking some common myths (six minutes, although only the first four and a half minutes are useful):

We intend to visit various straw bale homes that are listed in the International Straw Bale Registry's USA entries, which provides contact information for homeowners who built their own homes and invite visitors to view their work. Gordon and I intend to do just that while driving around the country on our Warrior Police book tour starting in September 2011. You might consider arranging to visit a straw bale house yourself in your own state, if and when time permits.

Other essential resources for learning more about straw bale construction with Andrew Morrison, a professional contractor who has produced dozens of articles, videos, and an online e-course covering almost every aspect of straw bale building construction. He also offers seven day straw bale construction workshops at different locations around the country.

Building with Straw Bales walks through the construction of a single house but is still very informative.

Building with Awareness website offers articles and other resources in addition to selling a full-color comprehensive straw bale building guide with companion DVD. We've already bought the excellent guide and DVD (the book is almost too tiny to read, unfortunately) so let us know if you'd like to borrow them.

Update: if you have a Netflix account you can simply rent the "Building With Awareness" DVD, which shows a straw bale house being built from the blueprints to the completed structure. It includes nearly three hours of detailed instruction on preparing the foundation, installing heated floors, rainwater cisterns, and electrical systems, shaping and plastering walls, installing a roof, and much more. It's absolutely worthwhile to rent and watch that movie! If you don't have your own Netflix account then just let us know and we'll rent it for you.

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