Houses Made of Straw

Straw is a renewable resource. In fact, we produce 200 million tons of straw that is wasted every year, after the wheat or other grain is removed. A bale of straw costs just a few dollars. Bales are sturdy, thick, and come in uniform size. They make wonderful insulation. Together, this makes it the perfect material for building homes.

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In the story of The Three Little Pigs, a home built of straw was supposed to convey the idea of weak materials and shoddy construction. But it wasn't the material, it was the preparation of the material that was weak. Properly baled straw can be used just like bricks to build a environmentally-friendly home at a fraction of the cost of wood or brick. And you can make a straw home as rustic or as modern as you like.

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Simon Dale built his Low Impact Woodland House in Wales using bales of straw to insulate the floor and create the walls and roof before adding earth to the outside. The finished home looks like a hobbit house! Construction took about four months and cost £3000. The process of building the home is documented in pictures at his site.

Continue reading for more straw homes that may surprise you.

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Steve James is serious about the environment. He built his own home near Dumfries, Scotland out of natural and recycled materials for a total cost of about £4,000. Now he's helping other people learn about alternative building methods.

"Actually, you could make it for less than that," James says. "I'd cut the wood myself next time instead of going to the sawmill. That would knock off a thousand." He finds the whole concept of mortgages quite amusing.

The walls are made of straw bales, and the roof is turf with flowers growing on it. It has a rainwater collection system, a composting toilet, and a woodburning stove. With the help of friends, he built it in about ten months. See more pictures at James' website.

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Glen Hunter built his environmentally-friendly home in Ontario using straw bales, although you'd never guess by looking at it. Architect Paul Dowsett had never done an off-the-grid house before he tackled the Hunter project. It became a throughly modern-looking straw bale home. Features include a solar roof that powers electricity and water heating, a wind turbine on a nearby hill for additional power, and three exterior walls made of straw bales.

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Kara and Dave built a straw bale house that was unveiled in August of 2007. The process of building it is documented in their blog Stonehouse Straw House.

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Straw homes are often personal projects, but they can be mass-produced. First Response Structures has developed a method of building temporary homes for disaster victims out of straw-filled panels. The panels are made of compressed wheat or rice straw covered with recycled paper using no toxins, so that when the shelter is no longer needed, the panels can be disposed of without damaging the environment. See a video of a temporary home construction.

Resources for straw homes:
Straw Bale Construction
Straw Bale Homes
Green Home Building
Ontario Straw Bale Building Coalition
50 Straw Bale House Plans
Straw Buildings of North America

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Futuristic New Street Toilets Are Coming to San Francisco
SmithGroupJJR
SmithGroupJJR

San Francisco’s streets are getting shiny new additions: futuristic-looking public toilets. Co.Design reports that San Francisco’s Department of Public Works has chosen a new design for self-cleaning street toilets by the architectural firm SmithGroupJJR that will eventually replace the city’s current public toilets.

The design is a stark contrast to the current San Francisco toilet aesthetic, a green knockoff of Paris’s Sanisettes. (They’re made by the same company that pioneered the Parisian version, JCDecaux.) The tall, curvy silver pods, called AmeniTREES, are topped with green roof gardens designed to collect rainwater that can then be used to flush the toilets and clean the kiosks themselves. They come in several different variations, including a single or double bathroom unit, one with benches, a street kiosk that can be used for retail or information services, and a design that can be topped by a tree. The pavilions also have room for exterior advertising.

Renderings of the silver pod bathrooms from the side and the top
SmithGroupJJR

“The design blends sculpture with technology in a way that conceptually, and literally, reflects San Francisco’s unique neighborhoods,” the firm’s design principal, Bill Katz, explained in a press statement. “Together, the varied kiosks and public toilets design will also tell a sustainability story through water re-use and native landscapes.”

San Francisco has a major street-poop problem, in part due to its large homeless population. The city has the second biggest homeless population in the country, behind New York City, and data collected in 2017 shows that the city has around 7500 people living on its streets. Though the city started rolling out sidewalk commodes in 1996, it doesn’t have nearly enough public toilets to match demand. There are only 28 public toilets across the city right now, according to the San Francisco Chronicle.

These designs aren’t ready to go straight into construction first—the designers have to work with JCDeaux, which installs the city’s toilets, to adapt them “to the realities of construction and maintenance,” as the Chronicle puts it. Then, those plans will have to be submitted to the city’s arts commission and historic preservation commission before they can be installed.

[h/t Co.Design]

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Houben and Van Mierlo Architecten
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Dutch City Will Become the World's First to Build Inhabitable 3D-Printed Concrete Houses
Houben and Van Mierlo Architecten
Houben and Van Mierlo Architecten

A new 3D-printed concrete housing development is coming to the Netherlands in 2019, CNN reports. The structures will be the first habitable 3D-printed concrete houses in the world, according to Project Milestone, the organization behind the initiative.

While architects and engineers have been experimenting with 3D-printed buildings for several years, most of those structures have just been prototypes. The Dutch development, located in Eindhoven, is expected to be ready for its first residents by mid-2019.

Project Milestone is a collaboration between the city of Eindhoven, Eindhoven University of Technology, the contractor Van Wijnen, the real estate company Vesteda—which will own and manage the houses—the engineering consultancy Witteveen+Bos, and the construction materials company Weber Beamix.

A rendering of boulder-like homes in the middle of a field
Houben and Van Mierlo Architecten

The five planned homes will be built one by one, giving the architects and engineers time to adjust their process as needed. The development is expected to be completed over the next five years.

The housing development won’t look like your average residential neighborhood: The futuristic houses resemble massive boulders with windows in them. The first house, scheduled for completion in 2019, will be a 1022-square-foot, three-room home. It will be a single-story house, though all the rest of the homes will have multiple stories. The first house will be built using the concrete printer on the Eindhoven University of Technology’s campus, but eventually the researchers hope to move the whole fabrication process on-site.

In the next few years, 3D-printed houses will likely become more commonplace. A 3D-printed home in Tennessee is expected to break ground sometime later in 2018. One nonprofit is currently trying to raise money to build a development of 100 3D-printed houses in El Salvador within the next two years. And there is already a 3D-printed office building open in Dubai.

In Eindhoven, residents appear to be fairly eager for the development to open. Twenty families have already applied to live in the first home.

You can learn more about the construction process in the video below.

[h/t CNN]

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