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
A Straw-Bale House for Chernobyl
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
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
The house was built in a few weeks
in the village of Mikhedovichi (Gomel) in southeastern Belarus, using a modified
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
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.