Chartreuse Blog

Building with Bales in Sioux Falls?
February 8, 2010, 2:42 pm
Filed under: Community Service, Green Materials, Local Green Events | Tags: ,

Ag Building at Symbiosis Farms

That’s right!  We are going to get our hands dirty and build with straw bales right here in Sioux Falls.  You can join in, here’s how…

We are partnering with the Sioux Falls Chapter of Architecture for Humanity and Sioux Falls Seminary to build a shed during the Plain Green 10 Conference in April.  Sioux Falls Seminary’s Summit House, located in the Pettigrew Heights, will be the site for the straw bale building.

A bit about straw bale construction:

The first straw bale buildings were located in the Sand Hills of Nebraska in the 1800s. Many of these homes still exist and, if maintained, are still in excellent shape. The oldest known straw bale construction in the world, located in Alliance, Nebraska, turned 100 years old in 2003.

Straw bale construction is an example of industrial ecology, an industry’s waste is turned into another industry’s food in a closed-loop system. The waste-product of the cereal grain industry, including wheat, barley, oats, rye, and rice, is straw, the tubular structure of a grain plant after the seed and grain is removed. Two and three-string square bales are used for construction.

Straw bale construction is done in two very different ways: as the structure, referred to as “Nebraska style” and “load-bearing,” or as the infill, referred to as “post and beam” and non-load-bearing.”  Infill straw bale is predominately used for a few reasons. First, infill is easier to meet code, get insurance, and get mortgage lenders because it is like traditional methods of construction.

It is adaptable, fits into many architectural styles, is changeable after construction, and allows for a much larger structure. It is also easier to repair or replace damaged sections. The use of a post and beam structure allows for the construction of a roof before the bales are stacked. This allows the bales to be protected from the weather during construction.

Straw Bale constructions have an average of R-1.45 per inch of wall thickness when plastered (as high as R-50 for a 20 inch wall), have a high compressive strength, a very good acoustical rating, and have been rated with two-hour fire resistance.