INFORSE-Europe logo

Sustainable Energy Successees

Facebook INFORSE Facebook INFORSE-Europe CAUSE: 100% RE  INFORSE Twitter

Energy Efficiency


Straw as a Building Material

From very early times, straw has been used as a building material: mixed with mud and clay, or as roofing material. Modern straw-building technique is based on the century-long tradition in the USA, started by early settlers in Nebraska, who were faced with a lack of traditional building materials and were forced to experiment with straw. The modern use of agricultural baling equipment has turned straw into building blocks.

Roughly, the building technique takes two forms: the Nebraska method, whereby stacks of straw bales form the weight-bearing construction of the house; and the Post and Beam/Bale Infill Technique, in which a post-and-beam structure carries the weight of the roof. Afterwards, the house, covered with lists of wood or stucco, may look like any other house in the area, the straw-bale technique does not reduce the possibilities of design. Experience with American straw-bale houses, together with tests done over the last two decades, shows that straw may offer some considerable advantages over other building materials:

Insulation - Straw has excellent insulating properties; the massive structure of the straw bale absorbs large amounts of heat and radiates it constantly into the room. This minimizes heat loss and provides a pleasant indoor climate.

Ease of construction - Because the straw bales replace bricks, insulation, and facade material, the result is a simpler building technique. The basic methods can be learned in a few days. This, together with the fact that straw-bale houses are very quickly built, reduces labor costs considerably.

Inexpensive - Since the straw is an agricultural by-product, it is cheap and available in most regions of the world, with little or no transportation cost.

Because of these characteristics, straw-bale construction is well suited to the needs of many people with limited resources who must build their own houses. The method offers a low-cost house that meets high standards.


Low-Energy Straw Houses in Belarus, for Cherobyl Settlers, and farmhouse under the State Program