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Energy Efficiency


Low-energy Straw Houses in Belarus

In Belarus, the practice of building ecohouses has developed rapidly over the last few years, from the experiences at the International Eco-Forum in Kiev/Ukraine, in 1995 and the first straw-bale house in 1996 to the planning of Ecovillage 2000 in Minsk.

The International EcoForum in Kiev gathered ecological NGOs from Belarus, Moldova, Ukraine, and USA under the support of ISAR.

One of the outcomes of the conference was a practical seminar in the summer of 1996 in Belarus on building houses out of straw bales. The technology used at the seminar provides very cheap energy-saving houses using local renewable materials, which demonstrates the principles of sustainable development.

A Straw-Bale House for Chernobyl Settlers

In August, 1996, Belarussia's first super-insulated straw-bale house was built in the village of Druzhnaia, 150 km north of Minsk. It is 6 x 12 m in size, cost about 50 USD/m2, and was built for Chernobyl settlers with help from the German charitable organization Houses instead of Chernobyl.

In comparison with brick and concrete buildings in the same village, the straw-bale building proved to be much cheaper, warmer, and more ecologically benign. After being stuccoed, the material is very strong, fire resistant, and durable. The original pessimism caused by the analogy with a tale about three pigs quickly cleared away!

A Straw-Bale Farmhouse under the State Programme

After the straw-bale building seminar and experience in Druzhnaia, the Government, on the initiative of the Belarussian NGO Belarussian Division of International Academy of Ecology (BD IAE), set up an experimental state program to construct low-cost houses of renewable natural materials. The Belarussian designing institution Gomelselstroiproekt participated in the project, and this led to the design of a 100-m2 farmhouse.

The house was built in a few weeks in the village of Mikhedovichi (Gomel) in southeastern Belarus, using a modified straw-bale technique whereby straw bales were used like ordinary bricks, with concrete between the bales. Compared with other houses in the village, the straw-bale house cost much less in labor and materials. In addition, it uses 3-4 times less heating energy.

After being involved in the construction of the first straw-bale buildings in Belarus, BD IAE has decided to develop a design for an ecohouse that will be available to the middle class: fully autonomous, with natural materials. This led to the idea of constructing a Demo EcoHouse in 1998 as a base for an EcoVillage 2000 in Minsk.

Skepticism about this eco-technology, caused by the idea that straw is an inadequate building material, is changing to a growing interest on the part of investors and individual builders. Nevertheless, there is strong opposition from big building companies and manufacturers of traditional building materials.

To promote widespread application of the technique, it is advisable that special building companies be created, as most contractors do not have any interest in cheap individual dwellings.


Name and type of project Druzhnaia
First Straw-Bale House in Belarus
Straw-Bale Farmhouse
Starting year 1996 1997
Overall costs of the project 4,000 DM 15,000 USD
Energy amount saved Building materials: 1,100 kWh/m2
Living: 120 kWh/m2/year
100,000 kWh
120 kWh/m2/year
New local jobs 12 8
Number of similar projects 3 2
Contact person Evgeny Shirokov
V. Khorujei 31a, of. 523, Minsk - 220002, Belarus
Ph/Fax: +375 - (017) - 2347527