Case Study: Desert Straw Bale Homes


The straw in this straw bale home was produced a mere 50 miles away just on the other side of Mount Palomar. The production of straw did not involve the chopping of any trees, a visit to a sawmill, kiln drying, the mining of ore, or the smelting of steel. This straw was baled at the farm and shipped to the site where it sat until it was installed in the walls of the building. This assembly produces an R-40 insulation value, something quite welcome in a climate where the summer temperatures range around 105 degrees.

The real beauty of straw bale homes are the ease of use of straw. It only takes a few manual tools (no power required) and can support a volunteer workforce (most of the work is hauling a stacking the bales in the wall). The utilization of this material could create a housing revolution in the remote places of the world where a dwelling is little more than thin sheets of corrugated metal. Earth and adobe buildings are nothing new and are still viable housing for quite a few societies, like in Peru where they refer to the construction as quincha or bahareque, some cool examples here.

However, what if this type of housing was introduced in the urban areas in place of the status quo public housing like this architectural disappointment. Because it could be constructed with relatively low skilled labor, the future residents could build their own houses! There is ample proof that someone who has a direct involvement in an activity will be much more likely to better care for what they have created. Best of all they will be rewarded with a energy efficient home for less cost than a wood framed, energy inefficient house.

straw construction 3 straw construction 4 straw construction 2

borrego archaeology center