May 10, 2011

Where the three little pigs lived

Made of straw

Fairy tales give out a whole lot of misinformation. Waiting for a prince to rescue you is a stupid strategy. The big bad wolf has never attacked a person in Northern America. And a house made of straw? Well, it turns out that it’s a good thing, a smart ecological and economic choice.

The coolest part of my weekend visit to Gorgeous Town, besides getting to spend time with friends and their very cute one-year-old daughter, was getting to visit a nearby straw bale house.

Yes, that’s right. A house made of straw.

The frame of the house is made from thick wooden beams, but the walls are made of bales of straw tightly packed together and plastered with stucco. Building the house was a communal project; family and friends pitched in to help. The walls are so thick that the house remains cool in the summer months and can be easily heated in the winter with a wood stove. Solar panels provide the rest of the energy needed for the house: it’s off the grid.

I’d heard about straw bale houses from my students, who talk about what a smart choice they are. Straw is a renewable resource, readily available, and the houses can be built with unskilled labor. Straw bale walls make for incredible insulation.

A house built from straw bales can also, it turns out, be beautiful. Outside, a garden grew on the roof, green plants shooting up against the adobe walls. Inside, the thick walls made for lovely windows, with window seats and shelves. The edges were curved and rounded, smooth like a sand dune rather than sharp angles. I couldn’t help but think I was walking around inside a storybook.

Where the three little pigs slept

14 comments:

Arwen said...

My sister was involved with making straw bale houses, and found it really satisfying. And cheaper than other options. Where we are, it's mainly waiting for building codes and insurance to catch up!

Lilian said...

AWESOME! I will google this type of houses and see if there are more photos and info. SUPER cool (and warm! as needed!)

Melissa Sarno said...

This is so cool! Thank you for sharing this info. I want a straw house!

beemama said...

My sweetheart dreams of building us a straw-bale house for our retirement. Our plan is to buy some property and he and our sons will construct it together as they grow - and then we will grow old there together :) There are so many, many things I love about his plan. That he could teach his boys all the things he knows, that we could have something together that is a part of our family tradition, and that it would be a gift from all of us to our older selves. And now, in my mind, I am picturing it like the house you visited . . . all soft light, and window seats for reading, and a garden on the roof.

Magpie said...

Wow. That room is so cozy looking.

liz said...

I have friends who live in a straw bale house they built. It's gorgeous.

readersguide said...

Wow, that is a beautiful house! My husband actually does the engineering for these houses out in California.

heidi said...

Now I want a straw bale house.

Phil said...

Probably a lot better in earthquakes, too. (Which you may not have to consider in the same light as I do)

kim said...

Truly stunning. It is about time that we smarten up and use cheaper, local, renewable resources for our housing.

Lomagirl said...

Inspiring! I saw something similar to this years and years ago- and loved it.

Leslie F. Miller said...

I can see a perfect spot for Wyeth's dog on that bed.

Leslie F. Miller said...

I also want to know about the fire hazards. Will it go up like kindling?

jo(e) said...

According to my students, a straw bale house that's properly built is actually safer and three times more fire resistant than traditional construction. The straw in each bale is so tightly packed that there is no room for oxygen, which means combustion can't take place.