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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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History
The Secret World War II History Hidden in London's Fences

In South London, the remains of the UK’s World War II history are visible in an unlikely place—one that you might pass by regularly and never take a second look at. In a significant number of housing estates, the fences around the perimeter are actually upcycled medical stretchers from the war, as the design podcast 99% Invisible reports.

During the Blitz of 1940 and 1941, the UK’s Air Raid Precautions department worked to protect civilians from the bombings. The organization built 60,000 steel stretchers to carry injured people during attacks. The metal structures were designed to be easy to disinfect in case of a gas attack, but that design ended up making them perfect for reuse after the war.

Many London housing developments at the time had to remove their fences so that the metal could be used in the war effort, and once the war was over, they were looking to replace them. The London County Council came up with a solution that would benefit everyone: They repurposed the excess stretchers that the city no longer needed into residential railings.

You can tell a stretcher railing from a regular fence because of the curves in the poles at the top and bottom of the fence. They’re hand-holds, designed to make it easier to carry it.

Unfortunately, decades of being exposed to the elements have left some of these historic artifacts in poor shape, and some housing estates have removed them due to high levels of degradation. The Stretcher Railing Society is currently working to preserve these heritage pieces of London infrastructure.

As of right now, though, there are plenty of stretchers you can still find on the streets. If you're in the London area, this handy Google map shows where you can find the historic fencing.

[h/t 99% Invisible]

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Guillaume Souvant, Getty Images
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This Just In
For $61, You Can Become a Co-Owner of This 13th-Century French Castle
Guillaume Souvant, Getty Images
Guillaume Souvant, Getty Images

A cultural heritage restoration site recently invited people to buy a French castle for as little as $61. The only catch? You'll be co-owning it with thousands of other donors. Now thousands of shareholders are responsible for the fate of the Château de la Mothe-Chandeniers in western France, and there's still room for more people to participate.

According to Mashable, the dilapidated structure has a rich history. Since its construction in the 13th century, the castle has been invaded by foreign forces, looted, renovated, and devastated by a fire. Friends of Château de la Mothe-Chandeniers, a small foundation formed in 2016 in an effort to conserve the overgrown property, want to see the castle restored to its former glory.

Thanks to a crowdfunding collaboration with the cultural heritage restoration platform Dartagnans, the group is closer than ever to realizing its mission. More than 9000 web users have contributed €51 ($61) or more to the campaign to “adopt” Mothe-Chandeniers. Now that the original €500,000 goal has been fulfilled, the property’s new owners are responsible for deciding what to do with their purchase.

“We intend to create a dedicated platform that will allow each owner to monitor the progress of works, events, project proposals and build a real collaborative and participatory project,” the campaign page reads. “To make an abandoned ruin a collective work is the best way to protect it over time.”

Even though the initial goal has been met, Dartagnans will continue accepting funds for the project through December 25. Money collected between now and then will be used to pay for various fees related to the purchase of the site, and new donors will be added to the growing list of owners.

The shareholders will be among the first to see the cleared-out site during an initial visit next spring. The rest of the public will have to wait until it’s fully restored to see the final product.

[h/t Mashable]

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