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GSBN:Straw Bale and Plumbing



Greetings GSBN members -

In a recent peer review meeting of the proposed California SB Code, the
conventional wisdom that plumbing in straw bale walls is a potential problem
was challenged.  Almost all U.S. SB Codes have a requirement that pipes for
plumbing in SB walls be sleeved.  For example: "Water or gas pipes within
bale walls shall be encased in a continuous pipe sleeve to prevent leakage
within the wall."  The term "water pipes" is usually understood to include
supply, drain, waste and vent pipes.

The logic goes that a sleeved pipe (with a presumed outlet outside the wall)
would protect against water intrusion into the bale wall from a leak, or
from condensation on the surface of the pipe, especially on cold water pipes
or pipes that extend to the exterior in cold air.

The logic against such a requirement is that it makes SB builders' lives
more difficult every time plumbing is installed in a SB wall, for a
speculated problem that rarely if ever occurs.  If a leak occurs with or
without a sleeve, one would know about it and would need to open up the bale
wall either way.  If condensation occurs it would cause only minor and local
deterioration at worst (?).  In addition, there is no such code requirement,
practice, or concern (?) for plumbing in wood framed walls, which is
certainly, though maybe not equally, susceptible to damage from water.

We're considering removing this requirement altogether from the proposed
California code.  Before doing so, I'm interested to know if anyone has any
ACTUAL experience with such a problem from plumbing in SB walls.  And maybe
Matts M. or David E. could chime in regarding the requirement's origin in
the Tucson / Pima County Code.

Thanks for any reply.

Martin Hammer
California