Wednesday, April 13, 2011

Hay is for Houses.

I know there is someone out there thinking "oh-my-gosh, I REALLY want to build a straw bale house on this piece of land but I have NO idea where to start or any really sweet sustainable design for it." I have come here to answer your prayers. In college, I took this course called "100 mile house", it was my favorite course I took at the University of Minnesota. The professor was Lucas Alm and the course was half a semester long. The idea was that we were all to build a house, in Minneapolis, using materials found with in 100 miles. We spilt into groups of three and researched different parts of what makes up a house, this research can be found here....and here. My group researched insulation, I was glad this was my topic since I knew very little on it prior to the class, besides the fact that it was what kept me warm and fuzzy in the winter. The coolest thing I found while researching insulation was this company called Ecovative Design. If you work for a packaging company- Check it out!!

Anyways, after we did the preliminary research, we all chose the methods we would like to construct our building, designed them, and realized that building local is a difficult task. Since insulation was my research project, I got really into straw bale designs.
http://www.dancingrabbit.org/building/straw_bale.php
I was drawn to the large window ledges and stucco-adobe style walls. The construction is much like how traditional houses are with batt insulation, except you are filling it with hay stacks, which have very high R values. This type of construction was illegal in Minnesota for awhile after a large fire in a straw bale building. Once technology caught up with the idea, regulation was reevaluated and it is now considered a legal form of insulation. The process is quite easy (in theory). Once the framing is set in, place the bales in to form the wall.
http://tlc.howstuffworks.com/home/straw-bale-house.htm
To connect the bales, a large needle and thread are sewn back and forth tightly. Then, (after all electrical do dads are installed) a wire mesh is added to allow the stucco (all hundred layers) adhere correctly.
http://rixarixa.blogspot.com/2008/10/straw-bale-barn.html
Click this link to view the construction of a straw bale shed
Above in a snap shot of the materials I used for the design. Gravel base, tire footings (cool huh!), wood beams, straw insulation (batt insulation for the attic) water protector and rubber shingles. I used a pellet stove for heating, and about 90% of the materials were found locally through reuse centers, local companies and building demolitions. The design all started with a few sketches...
Then the details came in...
In this section you can see the material locations as well as the deep window sill from the thick bale walls. The only downside I saw (aside from labor intensive) from building with straw bales was the loss of square footage.

Here are the plans for the house. Two stories with an open plan. I wanted to make this house suitable for all ages. The upstairs can be turned into an extra bedroom, office, or storage. Since the house will be located in Minneapolis, I made sure all private areas were towards the back of the house and windows were blocked by trees.

Here you can see the site lines in yellow and suggested tree locations in green.

Don't you wish that was you walking around inside?!



I made a model of the house out of 1/4" wood to show the depth in the windows and texture on the walls.

 To view the other final designs from the class go here, and here for my final design boards.

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