Straw Built Homes - FAQ

We get asked a lot of questions about Straw Bale Homes. It's something we've learnt over the years. Everyone is normally pretty interested in how they work, and therefore have loads of questions to ask :-)

So we've taken the time to list the top 5 questions we get asked (below)


Q: What does a straw built home cost?

A: Well this is the question we get asked the most! Our 'blanket' reply to this is - Straw Built Homes are no cheaper, but often comparable to the cost of other comparable quality building mediums. You will however save significantly in power costs - due to the inherent energy efficiency Straw Bale Homes embody.

The Cost Issue must also 'bracketed' with a very clear statement that :

Building costs (whether they be straw or another building medium) vary widely according to the intricacies of what that particular project entails.

So for Straw Bale Homes, just like any building, it depends totally on the design, site/ terrain, materials, fittings and level of finish!

Q: Do you have any issues with Building Inspectors and getting Consent?

A. We'd be lying if we said flat out ..  NO! :-)

Straw bale building can encounter the same problems with building codes as many other methods of conventional construction. New Zealand has hundreds of completed straw buildings and it is evident that they are solid, durable, and safe.

In our experience building inspectors and regularity authorities with a clear understanding of Straw Bale Construction, say that it complies with the New Zealand building code, when assessed as an 'Alternative Solution'.

And we we have been very successful with gaining full building consents for the projects we are involved with. These include.. amongst others:

  • Paul & Joy’s Home, Office and Warehouse – Consented by Waikato District Council
  • Pam & Roy’s Chateau – Consented by Waipa District Council
  • Kevin and Ann's Residence - 3 Bedroom home + Storage shed - Consented by Western Bay of Plenty District Council
  • Cherie's Residence - 3 Bedroom home - Consented by Gisborne District Council
  • Ross & Sarah's Residence - 3 Bedroom home - Consented by Hastings District Council
  • John & Barb's Residence - 5 bedroom home - Consented by Waikato District Council
  • Brian & Janine's Residence - 3 bedroom home - Consented by Rotorua District Council
  • Pam & Roy's Residence - 2 bedroom cottage - Consented by Waipa District Council
  • Sarah & Aaron's Residence - 2 bedroom cottage - Consented by Gisborne District Council
  • Trina & Scott's Residence - 3 Bedroom home - Consented by Waikato District Council
  • Brian & Susan's Residence - 3 Bedroom home - Consented by Whakatane District Council
  • Richard's Project - 2 x 3 bedroom homes - Consented by Ruapehu District Council
  • John & Holly’s Residence – Consented by Coromandel District Council
  • Ruatuna - 3 bedroom Show home / Office - Consented by Opotiki District Council
  • Joanna's Residence - Addition/ renovation to existing structure - Consented by Rotorua District Council

Q: Is it feasible to build straw bale homes in moist climates like New Zealand?

A. Perfectly feasible. Straw Bale buildings have been built in 50 countries around the world, and in 30 states in the USA. Probably one of the wettest being Vermont.... Where we know of a number that are still performing really well.

We also were involved in a project in the Mountains in North Carolina, a REALLY humid and wet climate of extremes. The house is now 5 years old, and doing really well. We always take into account the local conditions, and feel that with sensible design, there is no problem.

Recently, we tested the moisture content of the bales of a local straw bale home here in the Eastern Bay within 10 days of the huge flooding event we had in 2004, to ensure they were performing. This home has no eaves to speak of (we didn’t design it), and the moisture readings we got on all the bales were well below the accepted 18% safety limit. Even in the most exposed location, in the bottom bale of the south facing double storey gable end! As a result of the testing, the local council issued the necessary Code of Compliance Certificate.

Q: Aren't Straw Bale Homes susceptible to Fire?

The straw bale/plastered wall has proven to be very resistant to fire.

The straw holds enough air to provide good insulation value but because they are compacted firmly they don’t hold enough air to permit combustion. It's a bit like trying to burn a stack of telephone books... pretty difficult!

In fact, the results of testing have proven that a straw built wall has a far greater fire resistant than most conventional building materials :-)

Q: How durable is a straw built home?

A. Finished in the right way, very durable. The problems with straw built homes, just like any other, arise when walls are not properly finished. All our homes are designed with a thick plaster render, for which we utilise a proprietary plaster.

The walls are also designed for the straw to ‘breathe’. This assures a durable and healthy home. It’s worth noting that when proper attention is paid to design and construction, straw is as good if not better than many ‘mainstream’ materials.

Powered by EasyFAQ © 2006