In the classic story of the Three Little Pigs a naive piglet decides to build his home out of straw, which soon gets the huff and puff treatment by a big bad wolf, resulting in the poor little pig's untimely end. But perhaps unbelievably to some, straw homes do really exist, and they are a lot safer and sturdier than their mythical counterparts -- not to mention beautiful and stylish.
Many may wonder why a person would want to build a home made out of straw, but apart from providing a place to hide from the big bad wolf, they have some substantial benefits. They are undeniably green as straw packed tightly in the walls helps to retain heat, keeping a home warm in the winter and cool in the summer, minimizing the home's carbon footprint. Straw is also a sustainable material; it is the leftover stalks from grain that would otherwise be burnt. Aside from the environmental issue, straw homes are also often beautiful structures crafted in such a way to reflect the thick curved walls of a primal era, and envelop the inhabitant in a special, unique retreat that personally expresses their respect and care for the environment.
Read on to discover just how right that first little pig was to build his home out of straw.
Photos: Brett Weinstein/Realty Advocates
1. Straw Bale Home in Oakland, CA
This unique, beautiful straw bale home in Oakland, California recently carried a $1.1 million price tag. According to the home's agent, Brett Weinstein, the home didn't sell, and the owners are currently renting it. "It wasn't due to any fault of the house," Weinstein told TDG. Lord knows the housing market has been brutal in the Golden State. The straw used in the home's walls insulates the property, and gives it the thick, strong appearance reminiscent of homes of a bygone era. The straw bales inside the walls absorb the sun when it's out and radiate heat when it's dark, giving the home a steady temperature and resulting in low energy costs. The straw is sandwiched between plaster, blocking out noise and providing the owner with a unique, tranquil haven in a big city.
Photo: JD Peterson
2. Straw Bale Home in Sonoma County, CA
This gorgeous home, perched on owner Henry Siegel's 2 1/2-acre leafy lot, offers panoramic views and cozy comfort. The motivation behind the design was environmental as well as practical. Finding that solar panels wouldn't be practical on this site, Siegel decided to insulate the walls with straw, knowing that it is also a sustainable product. Siegel works as an architect with San Francisco-based Siegel & Strain, and confesses his home acts as a relaxing getaway. He says the warm, rustic-chic abode merges well into the rural wine region of California. He also enjoys the fact that friends and family helped him build it, a group of them cutting and placing 90% of the bales in one day.
Photo: University of Bath
3. BaleHaus in Bath, UK
The University of Bath built this two-story test home with straw-infused walls, helping them to research the properties of the material for the future. The BaleHaus project was funded by Carbon Connections and the Technology Strategy Board. Researchers Dr. Katharine Beadle and Christopher Gross from the University's BRE Centre in Innovative Construction Materials monitored the house for a year, looking at insulating properties, humidity levels, air tightness and sound insulation. The process of developing this structure was broadcast via a Website, capturing the intricate journey behind making a straw home.
4. Straw Bale House in Squire Canyon, San Luis Obispo, CA
Proving that a straw bale home can be modern, stylish and beautiful is this home in Squire Canyon, California. The architects, San Luis Sustainability Group, and builders Cullen Construction, added solar panels to this stunning straw bale home. The occupier reveals that the inside temperature never falls below 60, and even in the summer never goes above 75, even without the use of mechanical heating or cooling.
5. Burtt/Sowle Straw Home, Santa Ynez Valley, CA
This 1,532-square foot dwelling was designed by Roderick Taylor as an artist's studio and a sanctuary away from the sweltering heat of Santa Ynez Valley, California. The roof is made of Structural Insulated Panels (SIPs) and is covered by a standing seam metal roof. The supporting knee braces were made from a fallen black walnut tree. Interestingly, according to the contractor on the project, Allen Associates, they had to use some traditional wood framing (they used certified sustainable timber), "since straw bales are not an approved structural building material in California." Despite this, straw bale homes are growing in popularity in the Golden State. This example is flooded with light, which escapes from the high French doors. The home is completed with book and display cases made from the same fallen black walnut tree. The home also features low and no-VOC paints, low-wattage lighting, a composting toilet, greywater recycling for landscaping, water-saving fixtures and a tankless water heater.
6. Straw Home, Pembrokeshire, UK
The inspiration behind this remarkable home came from a desire to learn from the land and rediscover a way of life side by side with nature. What makes this impressive home even more innovative in its design is the fact that it has been created without the use of a timber frame, as the straw bale walls are load bearing (something not allowed by current codes in California). The unique home is made of locally sourced materials and uses both solar and wind power, as well as its own composting system.
7. Straw Bale home, Virginia
This grand straw home is the brainchild of Bob Hanson, who owns the company Green BEES, an acronym for Green Building for Economic and Environmental Sustainability. The home only uses an astonishing $20 of electricity per month. The basic structure is a timber frame filled with straw bale, covered with lime plaster. Like many straw homes the structure also has solar heated hot water, a roof with rainwater harvesting, composting toilets and a nutrient recycling system. Deciduous trees were also planted in strategic locations to provide shade in the summer and shielding from cold in the winter. The contented owner insists living in a straw home is very comfortable.
Photo: Poula-Line Schmidt/naturalhomes.org
8. Spiral Straw Home, Denmark
This incredible piece of architecture imitates the spirals of a seashell that the creator found on a beach in Malaysia some years ago. Two small rooms are housed in the spiral, and a spiral terrace perches on the roof, affording sweeping views of the Denmark countryside. The home also features a spiral chimney, bio oven to warm water in the winter and a sun heater for warming water in the summer. The home is part of an eco village in Denmark, a whole community of homes made of sustainable materials, in amazingly varied shapes and formed from different mediums.
9. Simon Dale "Hobbit House," Wales
This enchanting Hobbit-like home is partially dug into the hillside in a Welsh village, and is a lovely example of deep care for the environment. It took the inventor, Simon Dale, and some helpful friends four months and £3,000 to complete, and features straw bales in the walls, floors and roof to guarantee maximum insulation and a cozy ambience. Simon comments on his creation: "Being your own architect is a lot of fun and allows you to enjoy something that is part of yourself and the land rather than at worst a mass-produced box designed for maximum profit." He adds, "Building from natural materials does away with producers' profits and the cocktail of carcinogenic poisons that fill most modern buildings."
10. Straw Bale Home in Scotland
Huddled by a loch deep in Scotland, this straw home only cost £4,000 to build. But boy, what a structure it is. Built of straw and adorned with a turf roof decorated with flowers, the maker, Steve James, believes he has created his dream eco house. Don't be fooled by its rustic appearance: the cottage has a modern interior and Steve is deeply proud of it, going on to reveal that his kitchen is made from a cedar that blew over in a Glasgow park. The home features a Moroccan marble shower room, a log-burning stove, a gallied bedroom, a compost toilet and rainwater filtration system. The home took only 10 months to build and is proclaimed to be warm, watertight and holds strong against the temperamental Scottish weather.
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