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Bale Haus


Found this great house that is a hay bale house, what I like about this is how they still use wooden interiors and exteriors.  Normally bale houses are stucco exteriors, which is a good look, but for those who want cleaner lines, this is great.

With the rising price and decreasing availability of lumber, straw has gained attention as a renewable resource that is regularly available as the byproduct of growing grains. Farmers use a little straw to fertilize the ground, but most straw otherwise goes to waste. Each year, 200 million tons of straw go unused in the United States [source: U.S. Department of Energy]. Straw is available in most parts of the country, which reduces transportation costs of construction. With more than 50 percent of all greenhouse gases produced by the construction industry and the transportation associated with it, these savings can be significant


Check out how they make the walls, with really nice large lumber beams that make up these frames.




floorplan bottom

More photos: here

Source: here

  1. Straw and hay are rather different. There have been hay bale houses, I believe, but straw is much more common and seems to be what’s used here.

    Is this the Bristol University house?

    The prefab wall modules are neat for professional construction but, needing a crane, may not be so suitable for a self-build.

    • What is the difference between straw and hay? Why is straw used more? Any ideas?

      It is related to the Bristol house, but I am unclear how its related, perhaps the same architect.

  2. Hay is NEVER used for building. It is food for animals (and for insects when used in wall construction). Straw is the remaining grass stem after the seed grains have been harvested. It has no food value but is high in carbon and should be used for compost rather than regarded as an agricultural waste suitable only for building. Nevertheless, straw bales are a current fad as a material for wall construction for either infill or load-bearing structural systems. This may be appropriate if the straw is locally sourced–but is highly questionable as a strategy for sustainability if the straw bales are shipped over any distance (either as seperate bales or in prefabricated wall panels).

  3. Steve Beck has some great comments. Hay is a grass, and is used as animal feed. If you did want to build a house with it, it would be very expensive. Straw isn’t a particular plant, but is a stock left after the harvesting of pretty much any grain like wheat or barley. They have much larger air pockets (hay has almost none), 0 nutritional content, and thus can be found pretty cheaply.

    Most grain farms burn their staw when done with the harvest, leaving all of that carbon going into the air as CO2. That isn’t a very appealing solution. While it can be a good compost aditive, and in most working farms it is used for composting after it is soiled from use as animal beddding, it is very rich in carbon, and needs to be carefully added to a compost pile to insure a good nitrogen/carbon mix.

    Finally, as Steve said, it is in fashion right now, and many people are using stray for their own eco houses. Some are simply buying these from midwest farms and shipping the bales across the country in big desiel trucks. There is an issue to consider, but between the clean, chemical free interior of a straw bale/earthen plaster house vs a stick built, fiberglass or foam insulated home, which still needs to have materials shipped from all over the country, and is full of glues, fire retardants, and VOCs, I will pick the staw bales any day. The choice is always yours, so do your homework and pick what works best.

  4. Great info! Holly cow, how did you two come to know so much about this? That is an interesting spin on things where they load the product on the truck and ship it. It is green washing what it is.

    Grant do you have a bale house?

  5. I’m sure I read about a house which used hay, non-structurally and in plastic bags I think, but that was quite a few years ago and so I’m sorry but I can’t cite a source. But yes, it’s a pretty odd material to choose.

    Straw is chemically pretty similar to wood and so is likely to last as well as long as it’s kept dry.

    I agree with Steve that straw’s a bit of a fad. It makes a lot of sense if it’s available locally but almost any other likely insulation material is better for a given thickness so transport costs count against straw if the insulation needs to be shipped any great distance.

  6. Good to see the interest shown in the BaleHaus. I work for ModCell and BaleHaus. We are the manufacturers of the ModCell Straw bale panels used on the BaleHaus at Bath. Please note that the building is actually on the campus of the University of Bath.

    Grant made a number of excellent comments. We use Wheat straw bales that are locally sourced. We are based in Bristol (UK) and wherever the project is we set up a local ‘Flying Factory’. The Flying Factory is located between 3 and 25 miles of the construction site (sometimes closer). The Flying Factory (FF) is normally located on a farm.

    The FSC/PEFC structural timber is delivered directly to the FF already pre-cut and drilled. We then use local labour to assist in the assembly of the ModCell panel. Once assembled the panel is then infilled with locally sourced straw. The panel is then has lime render spray applied on to both the external and internal face of the panel. The lime ensures that the panel is able to breathe whilst maintaining an environment that prevent decay of the straw. The completed panels are then transported the short distance to the construction site.

    For info the BaleHaus at Bath had all the walls and roof structurally in place within 3 day’s.

    We have also built a number of commercial and educational buildings throughout the UK. if you are interested check out our web site:

    I hope this is of interest to you. It is always good to speak with like minded people.


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