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FAQs - Straw Bale Construction

What are the benefits of Straw Bale building?

  • Annually Renewable Resource
    • Like wood, straw is produced by photosynthesis, a natural process, fuelled by solar energy. Unlike timber, straw is annually renewable.


  • Reduced Environmental Impact: Straw is essentially a waste product.
    • Being a non-nutritious, by-product of cereal grain farming, straw is often left rotting in fields and in many parts of the world or simply burnt - including South Africa – causing excessive pollution. On site, no waste is generated and all left-over straw can be either composted or makes excellent mulch for the soil.


  • Energy Efficiency
    • Plastered straw bale construction creates long lasting, super-insulated buildings offering superb thermal comfort. A standard plastered concrete block wall will insulate at R1,5 compared to straw bale walls which insulate at a phenomenal R8 to R9, depending upon their thickness. The savings this makes possible is not to be underestimated:
      The capital costs normally needed for heating and cooling, along with their associated pollution and environmental costs of energy production will be drastically reduced. This factor could be of particular significance in low-income scenarios where much income is spent to keep the cold winter nights at bay, often resulting in appalling pollution and ill health.
      •  The health aspect of improved thermal comfort also contributes to capital savings as well as improved well-being and productivity.
    • The embodied energy spent in building with straw bales is relatively small when compared to the high pollution costs associated with burnt brick or cement production, especially when considering that straw is for the most part a waste product. This makes their contribution to the increase of C02 and global warming associated with construction, very slight indeed.


  • Sound Absorption
    • As with their thermal insulation, straw bale walls offer superb acoustic qualities. Being virtually soundproof straw bale walls are ideal for noisy high-density environments.


  • High Seismic Resistance
    • Conventional Buildings are extremely hazardous in earthquakes and costly to reinforce. In contrast buildings of straw have a good width to height ratio and are adequately reinforced. The very nature of a bale, their flexibility and strength are ideal for seismic design provided the connections between the walls, roof, and foundations are adequate. A bale wall actually absorbs much of the shock of an earthquake, instead of transferring it to the roof as in conventionally built structures.


  • Self Build, Job Creation, Ease and Speed of Construction
    • The simplicity of construction and owner-builder friendliness is such that anybody, including woman and children can be involved in the construction process. Bale buildings lend themselves to self-help, community-driven building processes where jobs are created locally, and building processes are wholly inclusive of the building’s owners. As well as requiring only simple and inexpensive tools, construction techniques are uncomplicated and easily learnt. The basic skills can easily be taught to an unskilled person in a day workshop. Bale walls can be built incredibly fast when the process has been well streamlined. The walls of a 150 sq.m-sized house can typically be built in just two days. The plastering time depends, with earthen plasters being more labour intensive, taking longer, while a gunite plaster is done by machine and can be done exceedingly quickly.


  • Affordability and Local Economic Empowerment
    • The financial benefits of building with bales are both immediate as well as long term. Bales themselves are extremely cheap and the ease and speed of construction makes for relatively low building costs. The construction process is ideal for community building. With the higher proportion of costs being in human labour, less money is spent on transportation and factory made goods leaving more money to circulate locally. Furthermore significant savings are possible especially where the owner becomes an active participant in the process. With bale walls offering superior thermal performance, major long-term savings are assured with reduced heating and cooling costs.

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"E-WIRE" lights by Andy Horn

The Eco Design lighting range is made from local or recycled materials. Standing Floor Lamps, Desk Lamps, Pendant Lights and Chandeliers are available. The lamp stands are from locally moon phase harvested alien timber. Recycled car parts are used as bases. Various paper shades & low energy LED light bulbs provide good lighting and create a beautiful atmosphere.

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We offer a number of construction & info manuals on our website on natural building technologies which specifically refer to the South African context. The info manual "A LIME DUNG PLASTER RECIPE" has recently been added to the collection.   Click here for more information.

All our manuals are also now available as E-Book downloads. Click here for the E-Books.