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Re: GSBN: re Ecohouse

John, thanks for your quick and thoughtful response.  I do agree with you
that a render over the bales solves the fire (and rodent) problem if one
wishes to finish the bale wall with some type of sheet or plank siding which
creates an airspace (or even if there is no substantial airspace?), but I
believe one coat of render (as thin as 1/4" (6mm)) is sufficient for the
purpose of protecting the bales from igniting.

Regarding truth windows and your comment -"or why have a truth window at
all?" - I emphatically believe that truth windows must be allowed.  Why?
Because they show the truth, and what could be more important than that??
Showing the truth of the straw inside the walls for me far outweighs any
minor fire risk from a small (size is a matter of debate) exposed area of

Just thought I would express that quickly.  Also, although I didn't mention
rodents in my last e-mail, which I do think is a problem that needs to be
considered as well, I just think it's secondary.  However, if you have taken
care of fire with the system of construction, you have usually also taken
care of rodents.

Thanks for all your comments.


> G ' day Martin
> I agree with your comments 100%.
> Long time ago we helped build the Buddhist accommodation for the
> Buddhists of Whyalla South Australia.  There was an arson attempt on
> the building which had been rendered both sides.
> There was not much damage until the fire department broke through the
> render to extinguish the hot bales then woosh I believe 25 bales had
> to be replaced.
> What occurred was that a venturi effect was created and the fire was
> drawn up through the  top plates.  Even though the top plates were
> "sealed" with an earth mix there was enough draught for the venturi
> effect to take place.  I hope that is a correct description.
> So at no stage would I advise or be part of any straw bale walls that
> were not fully rendered and all gaps sealed around penetrations such
> as windows and doors.  Also shaggy bales will take fire and may appear
> to go out but hot spots occur and they smoulder and eventually find a
> way to set the lot up in blazes.  Apart from the look I see no reason
> to leave bales naked.
> Same problem with parapet roofs re moisture once bitten forever shy
> but that is another story where the Architect would not listen and we
> were keen to get a start in building a load bearing straw bale.
> Also if people want to sheet the walls with fibre panels or other
> materials I would advise two coats of render before any sheeting is
> applied.
> I had a look at the Russian work and apart from the mice problem I
> feel they will go up in flames pretty quick smart if a fire got going.
>  Now if you extend the bottom and top plates 40-50mm. past the edge of
> the naked bales then you have a way of getting the render straight as
> well as an anchor for any sheeting that you may want to use, expensive
> maybe.
>> 1. Straw bale parapets:  Prohibited  Agree
>> 2. Unfinished straw bale walls (or ceilings):  Prohibited (except for truth
>> windows of a limited size (to be specified, or left vague) smaller the better
>> or why have a truth window at all?
>> 3. Straw bale walls with an airspace between "naked" straw, and the wall's
>> finish:  Prohibited period no compromise.
> There have been far too many fires unplastered straw bale walls over
> the years I can name at least 5 down under and apart from the Whyalla
> place these buildings had zero render applied.
> Kind regards
> John Glassford
> Huff 'n' Puff Constructions
> <a  target="_blank" href="http://www.glassford.com.au/";>http://www.glassford.com.au/</a>
> Mount Kilimanjaro Climb 28/8/07
> <a  target="_blank" href="http://www.coolamonrotary.com/kili/";>http://www.coolamonrotary.com/kili/</a>
> 61 2 6927 6027
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