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Re: GSBN:Ask the Experts

Dear Chris
I will have a go at responding to your query from a TLS reader.
" The problem is, which one or combination there of would be best for 
me? I live in Southern Arizona but am looking to build in Mexico's Baja Norte 
which is of similar climate. Do I use straw bale because of the insulation 
abilities, or adobe earth for thermal mass, or a combination thereof? The more I 
read the more I get confused and the longer it takes for me to begin the actual 
G ' day Dave
I feel that the answer is fairly simple for you.  Not knowing your 
climate too well I guess it has hot summers and reasonable winters with little 
or no chance of perma frost?
I feel that you should definitely use straw bales for your walls and 
preferably load bearing.  You should orientate the building East to 
West with South facing windows for passive solar gain.  How much glass for 
a super well insulated straw bale building?  I do not know but my guess is 
not as much as we think.
I would look at earthen renders and earthen floors to obtain thermal mass, 
making sure that the floors and walls that are exposed to winter sun are 4' 
thick with good insulation.  This way you get to use the best of both 
worlds, adobe for render and floors and straw bale super insulation for 
The winery in Lethbridge, Geelong, Victoria, Australia that we built, works 
very well without the use of thermal mass to heat the building.  There are 
very few North facing windows just 3 small ones and no other windows or doors 
facing North (your South).  it is functioning very well and maintains an 
even temperature throughout the year no matter what the external temperatures 
are.  Mind you the walls are 3' thick!  Geelong has a similar climate 
to Arizona but  much wetter some 20" annually.  (Winter frosts -3-6C; 
summer 40+C with very cold winds directly off Bass Straight and the 
For mine using straw bales and earth renders and floors has been a major 
reason for my continued use of straw bales for I fear that if I had not met Bill 
an Athena Steen at the Canelo Project in Elgin, Arizona I may have given up 
straw bale building as the cement renders and all that preparation was a real 
turn off physically and financially.  I certainly would not have taken up 
adobe or mud brick building; far too slow with few benefits to a professional 
builder.  So I feel that I have found the perfect medium to build with, mud 
and straw, so what are you waiting for?
Hope that helps
Kind regards The Straw Wolf <A 
href="http://strawbale.archinet.com.au";>http://strawbale.archinet.com.au</A> 61 
2 6927 6027</BODY></HTML>