Sticks or Straw?

I used to build straw bale homes. I’ve worked on more than 2 dozen across two provinces. We were going to build one ourselves, which is how I got into the straw bale business. I also teach building science about natural construction, so one would think that it would be a no-brainer to build with straw. But we are not building with straw, we are building with sticks. So why?

As a consultant, I help a lot of different folks make a lot of decisions about how to make their houses healthy, green and efficient. Most of those people live in regular homes and love those homes and want those homes to be the best that they can be, because they love them. A few people come to me who want to live in the off grid straw bale home or EcoNest or natrual constructed home. Those people, are unfortunately the minority. 

Building science and how we can construct stick frame homes has changed dramatically over the last few years thanks to some amazing researchers, scientists, and consultants. We know that the old ways of wrapping the house in as many impermeable layers of plastic doesn’t work, and that, like natural construction, vapour permeable systems, with really good air sealing can last significantly longer than older stick construction. By understanding the science of best practices, you can build a durable, healthy house with a variety of materials. To that end, I wanted to show the majority of the homeowners out there that it is possible to do this on their homes, leading by example. 

Do I still wish I built with straw? Sure. There are lots of things you can do with that material that can’t with sticks, like beautiful curved windows, and soft undulating plastered walls. But the location of the addition, the set backs, the challenges of this site all made more sense to go with sticks. So to the naysayers I ask that you follow along, and I’ll get into the details of how this can work in certain applications.

© Stephen Collette 2016