Q. How long does it take to build a natural home?

A. The time needed to build a natural house is highly subjective and ranges anywhere from 4 to 24 months. If you have a custom made house, the contractor tends to take longer. It can often take between 1 and 1.5 years to get ready for the construction process. If financing is not already in place and labor alternatives are an option, this will inevitably make for a longer process.



A. Cob is…

Q. WHAT IS Strawbale Building? - Hay vs Straw


Q. Will the straw decompose? What about Pests?

A. Plowed into the ground, most straw takes six months to decompose. Rice straw, which has a high silica content, takes twice that time. Straw has been used as an insulating material for many centuries, and has been found in excellent condition in Egyptian tombs thousands of years old. If kept dry, straw will not degrade. It can be said, then, that the lifetime of straw in a building could be anywhere from three weeks to nine-thousand years, depending on how well the building is constructed and cared for.

Straw has no nutritional value (unlike hay, which has seeds) and is therefore of little interest to rodents. Also, rodents would have to eat through thick plaster to get to a dense wall that is not food. Straw bales are not carriers of insects, the density of the packs makes it very difficult to move inside.


Q. Isn't there a huge fire danger?

A. No! Test after test show that straw bale walls meet or exceed fire code safety standards. A conventional wall (wood frame/drywall) is designed to withstand temperatures of 760 degrees Celsius (1,400 F) for 30 minutes. The National Research Council of Canada did a test on a plastered bale wall and it withstood direct flames of 760 degrees Celsius for two hours before a crack appeared. This rating is equivalent to cement (which means it can be used commercially).
Additional fire tests have been done by The Appropriate Technology Group at Vienna Technical Institute, The Danish Fire Technical Institute, University of California, and others. Depending on the size of the bale and the use of plaster the ratings ranged from 90 minutes to over two hours. In fact individual plastered bales were tested to the standards of Australian bushfires (up to 29 kilowatts per square meter of heat) and zero ignited. This qualifies them as “non-combustible” under Australian Bushfire code AS 3959.
Fire requires fuel, oxygen and high temperatures. Straw bales are highly condensed, decreasing the availability of oxygen and are coated as well.


Q. Aren't bales susceptible to humidity and moisture?

A. A coated straw bale wall is hygrophilic, which means it is vapour permeable and allows the moisture to wick in and then wick right back out again. People say the walls “breathe” because they allow moisture to leave. Permeable plasters like lime/earth are used to coat the bales.

Moisture getting into the bales is problematic during storage and the installation phase. If bales are not kept dry while being stored on the property, this can quickly become an issue. It is recommended that bales have no more than 20% moisture content. A moisture reader can tell you this. It is also advisable to tell your supplier this number and that you are using the bales to build with. You do not want to start your new construction with insulation that is holding moisture.

Q. Does straw bale meet building codes?


Q. How are the walls finished?


Q.How do you incorporate plumbing and electrical?


Q. Do green/natural buldings last?


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