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Comments on Monday 11 September 2006:
Yesterday I learned the basics of how to build load-bearing straw-bale structures. Now you can learn in turn, an even more compact essence of the lessons, thus:
  • Straw bales are cheap, easy to heft around, and easy to work with.
  • Even a structure of load-bearing straw-bales still involves lumps of wood to compact the straw into its load-bearing form, and associated hammering of nails.
  • Straw bales are held in place, especially before compression, by the expedient method of hammering wooden stakes through them.
  • Realising you are simultaneously wearing a long trenchcoat, wearing fencing gloves, standing on a raised platform and holding aloft a mallet and long wooden stake is quite amusing.
  • Assembling a straw-bale wall is ridiculously fast, easy, and fun. Especially hammering stakes in.
  • Mixing the subsequent and necessary lime-based surface rendering coat is tiring.
  • Applying said lime-based rendering coat is messy and frustrating.
  • Learning these skills from someone whose one-room straw-bale animal-shelter building has a rotted wall that needs repairing might not be the wisest idea.
Drawbacks aside, I assume these generalisable skills will serve me well, in the upcoming event of an apocalypse that destroys and/or zombifies all existing buildings and people. I'm not sure how well a straw-bale building will do at fighting a zombified brick building, but I look forward to finding out. In a few weeks I might also go back and learn how to build timber-frame buildings, which should help if my post-apocalypse house-collection has to fight an army of either big wolves or bad wolves, but, I gather, wouldn't fare much better against big bad wolves. [01:58]

Nameless
Building with straw is kinda fun. It also has an exceptionally RU value as an insulator. I suggest using rice straw as base because it is more resistant to mold. I'm not sure how useful learning modern timber frame is in a post appcoliptic world unless you have some idea of how to mill timber. Daub and wattle, or log frame on the other hand would be tremendously useful.

Carina
I'm not sure I understand why you would want to build a structure out of straw bale.

RavenBlack
Nameless's remarks per insulation are one reason. Also that it's extremely easy and cheap, and, if done right, pretty durable too. Mold/rot is the main concern.

Carina
Can you build (possibly temporary, mold dependant) structures of straw bale that are 'suitable' for human inhabitation, or are they ordinarily used for livestock? I'm quite intrigued now!

RavenBlack
You can build three-floor houses that can last a long time - the important thing is that the render-coating has to be waterproof and well maintained, and put on without the straw having got damp beforehand. The chap recommended lime-based render coat because it self-heals over small cracks, and is breatheable (which means it will let out water vapour if a small amount gets in through a crack).

Carina
That's quite interesting. I assume such buildings as as weight-bearing as similar timber-framed structures. Excellent.

RavenBlack
Possibly better, since the straw bales become load-bearing by being compressed downwards, while the timber relies on its own inherent strength.

Nameless
Its also fairly cheap. Depending on where you are you can get various types of straw. We strongly suggest Rice or rye straw over that commonly used for bedding and roughage oats, wheat and barley, these types are a bit more resistant to mold. It also works well as just a pressed insulator in a frame building. Stucco outside plaster or drywall inside straw packed in the middle. If done this way you can make very conventional looking multi-story homes. The only structures I have worked on for human habitation were built this way with wood floors steel framing and straw walls/insulation these were built for habititat for humanity in california the others were for outbuildings and had an all straw construction. You can also thatch with straw.
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