I am shopping for a piece of land now - hope to buy it in two years, and 3 years later to be fully planted on my dear homestead. I would prefer to buy some land with hills and build my house mostly into the hill. Is it possible to build a straw bale house into a hill - assuming that the straw is going to be sealed very well with stucco or the like?
Hi Tom, Why strawbale? Have you considered earthbag? Where are you looking for land? Just curious, cause we just purchased 17 pine wooded acres, with south facing slope near Fence Lake, New Mexico. Would love to have permie neighbors. We probably will make the move to the property next spring. We are planning on doing aquaponics in walapini (pit) greenhouses.
I would also ask why strawbales for underground? One of the benefits of underground housing is the thermal mass provided by the earth it self, and that would be nullified by the insulation value of the straw. stawbale walls also provide no lateral strength so you would first need to build a retaining wall and then stack the bales against that. And Stucco is not a good enough vapor barrier against direct contact with earth or stone, so you would need to add that in also.
Basicly, it would require a lot of extra engineering to make underground strawbales work, and I can't see what the added benefit would be for doing so.
I'm not by any means an expert in green building but I have to agree with the above posters, I don't see how straw underground would offer any advantages, and it would certainly be very difficult to make it work. There are many other techniques designed to work underground or semi-underground, which offer all kinds of advantages, I'm sure you can find something that suits your situation.
We had planned on building straw bale until we bought our land, even had the bales sitting at our storage yard.The hillside brought about change in plans.Straw bale being much cheaper then what we chose would of been nicer on the pocket book but would of came with many problems.The west and north sides of our home are buried into the hillside.We have a French drain system to help with any water run off from the hillside that feeds down into the gardens.Where our home is located we knew we had to have strong wall not only to support the amount of gravel and earth against it but also to support our timber roof structure.We chose to use ICFs for this which are reinforced according to code and zoning regs.We also have the epdm system that is on the roof wrapped down to the slab and sealed so that we have no leakage.We work with stone and stucco all the time with out a good barrier product there is not way the straw bales would last in our situation.So I would not recommend others do it that way either.Living in a home like this I can say the expense of not having it properly sealed along the back walls and the roof would be very costly,
IMO you should choose materials that will last in the environment you place them. It is wasteful to build something that will disintegrate or become a health hazard. Also, improper use of 'alternative' materials is what gives them a bad reputation and keeps them out of code approved construction.
I like strawbale buildings IF built with good drainage and roof overhang. I've seen bale buildings with parapet roofs and bad drainage and people are surprised the house is falling apart. A building technique is only as good as the setting and attention to detail used.
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