Beyond Traditional: Home Building Goes Green

By: Tom Kile

With so many eyes looking towards how to reduce the harmful effects of our population's excesses on our planet, many people are looking for ways to go green in every aspect of their life. This also extends to the types of homes that are now being built. While traditional site built homes involve wood, stucco and/or brick, homeowners and builders alike are getting more creative by using less traditional home building items, such as one home here in the South made out of straw bale. No, it's not owned by one of the three little pigs. In fact, the goal is to be less of a pig when it comes to the environment.

This little straw house was designed much like any traditional home. It has standard doors, windows and, of course, a roof. But the walls themselves were created out of straw bales (the remnants of grain harvesting) and a stucco mixture of sand, dirt and pigment (for color). It took approximately 240 bales to create this 1900 square foot home. And the homeowner has seen a significant savings in energy costs within just the past year of living in it.

A traditionally built home's walls are only about 6 inches thick. However, a straw bale is 18-23 inches thick and solid. This helps regulate the temperature of the home, keeping it warm in the winter and cooler in the summer. The positioning of the home also helped keep energy costs down. By placing the side with large windows pointed to the south and using a ceiling fan to move the air around, the straw home was able to maintain a comfortable temperature inside (69 to 74 degrees Fahrenheit) even when temperatures dipped to 54 or soared to 95 outside. This allowed them to spend a grand total of around $500 on their utilities for the whole of last year.

While hay may be for horses, straw is definitely great for houses. I don't see the Big Bad Wolf coming around and blowing this one down anytime soon either. Recycling is a great start to helping our planet, but we have to think much broader. Owning a home is an important part of so many people's lives. Finding new and interesting ways to re purpose used articles as building materials or finding natural alternatives like this straw house can save us money while also helping save our planet. It's a win-win situation for everyone!