House of Straw

Cooler Than Your Place?

By Mark Lung

I still remember the look on the face of the hard-working farmer when I told him I wanted to buy four hundred straw bales. Holding a check for twelve hundred dollars in his hand, he told me he had been worried about what he was going to do with all that straw (the waste left over from harvesting grains), and then got around to asking what I planned on doing with the bales. I told him I was building a home for my wife Janice and me. He squinted, not because it was sunny, and eventually he smiled. “I guess it makes sense,” he said.

People are usually unsure but fascinated by the idea of building with straw bales. But after visiting our home, they are pleasantly surprised to find that it bears little resemblance to the home of the three little pigs. Our place has a different feel from a typical house and it performs differently, but it’s solid, safe, affordable, and comfortable. It even won Boise City’s Excellence in Building Award in 2010.

For Janice and me, only a straw bale home makes sense. It’s healthier than traditionally built houses, supports local farmers, saves money, and is thoughtful about the environment. The last part is particularly important to me as an environmental scientist who explores sustainable development in Kenya. I need to practice what I teach.

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