Let’s face it, this planet is in a crisis. Don’t let anyone tell you otherwise. To create the energy we needed to sustain our modern comforts, we’ve polluted our atmosphere with countless gasses that’ll eventually warm the planet. A major part of this is the energy we squander heating and cooling our homes which is produced using fuels that emit greenhouse gasses. The solution is simple. Build homes that use less energy.
Earthen homes are at the top of the list. These are also known by the name of earth ships. Problem is that a majority of the living area on an earth ship is subterranean and doesn’t meet many fire codes for egress.
One other is the chord wood house. This is also an excellent choice and I don’t believe there are many downsides to this method except it’s walls are nothing but firewood logs cut to length and put together with mortar like a brick house. I say it’s a downside because we really need to save as many trees as possible. No, I’m not a tree hugger sorta guy, I just know that trees are the one element of nature that, if left alive, will scrub many of the bad gasses out of our atmosphere.
So then we come to building homes out of bales of rice or wheat straw. The straw is something we have been actually throwing away as waste in this country for years. Yet when put together as wall units, produce a very high resistivity factor of R-39 to R-52 with a wall thickness of 14 to 16 inches. Wow, the common house built in America today using standard building methods is generally R-13 to R-19. R or resistivity is a number measuring a material’s resistance to heat flow. R stands for resistance. Anyway, there is over double the difference in how much heating and cooling these walls can contain. Less energy used, less greenhouse gasses spilled into the atmosphere.
Once the walls are up, then the home is wrapped with a fabric that allows moisture to exit but not enter the walls and then is covered in about one inch of cement. These structures are as beautiful as they are functional. Even better is that only 20% or so of the structure is lumber so trees are saved. The cost is probably 50% less than standard construction methods and they last for ages. There are straw bale buildings in my area of Tennessee that have withstood the elements for well over a century.
Tim Davis is an Architectural Designer who has been in drafting and design since the late 1980’s. He teaches Architectural Drafting over the internet at http://houseplandrafting.us, and draws House Plans professionally at http://residentialdrafting.net.