[GSBN] Straw bale at high altitudes

Misha Rauchwerger misha.rauchwerger at gmail.com
Fri Jul 11 10:40:50 CDT 2014

I have a client that wants to build a straw bale house at 4000 feet in the
Sierra Foothills.  They have been getting conflicting information about the
wisdom of building with straw at that elevation.  In particular there is
the concern about the effects of moisture in the wetter months, and
possible condensation inside the walls.  They know about the need for big
eaves, and permeable plasters, but have been swayed against the idea from a
local green architect in town.  Please direct me to any research, or
anecdotal evidence to support straw bale construction under these
conditions, or maybe there is valid concern.  I have only built in the
lower/dryer elevations on flatter sites.

They also share these concerns:

Their lot is sloped, so they would likely have to build a full walk-out
basement on the lower level, and the living space on the upper level.  This
means that the full lower level is built of concrete (probably Faswall or
Durisol); will they would have to build out the lower walls to match the
width of the straw bales?  How is this disparity in wall thicknesses
usually resolved with the least cost/impact?

- With a walk-out basement, is it possible/reasonable to do a
stepped-foundation on the lower level to minimize the amount of concrete
used?  Or does the mixed use of concrete and post/beam and straw bale
construction create unreasonable headaches in the building process?

Thanks everyone for your comments,
Misha Rauchwerger
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