[GSBN] R value export straw blocks?

Bruce EBNet bruce at ecobuildnetwork.org
Tue Jan 27 16:23:26 CST 2015

Seems to me that lots of people would like to know more about optimal density of agricultural fibers as insulation.  Not because it would mean much to bale builders, for all the reasons just articulated by y’all, but because there is a wide array of insulating straw building products just itching to enter the market, and they would like to be as good as possible.

I’m part of one of them, Stak Block (and yes, we have only built one tiny cabin so far), but I know of many others hovering at various stages of development.  If they are to get anywhere we would need:

- to stop fossilizing fossil fuels so much (not holding my breath)
- to develop a cheap, clean, durable binder to replace MDI and formaldehydes
- to develop effective mobile manufacturing — small but profitable rolling manufacturing plants that can be pulled by truck or rail to grain farms as the season is right.
- to know how dense to make straw blocks, panels, and “foams”

Straw bale construction isn’t going to save the world, but it can and should serve as a sort of culture shifter that opens up widespread use of ag by-products (rather than cement and plastic foam) to provide safe, warm shelter.

So it would be nice to know optimal density for each straw or fiber.


Bruce “Watch me shift my culture” King

(415) 987-7271

> On Jan 27, 2015, at 1:38 PM, Derek Stearns Roff <derek at unm.edu> wrote:
> It would be chasing rainbows to expect every farmer to produce an identical bale with factory consistency and industrial precision.  On the other hand, the wide variation that John Straube has mentioned might point to a farmer’s ability to produce better bales without much effort.  I’m not sure how many farmers are in dialog with bale builders worldwide, but in my experience, it is normal for the farmer and the builder to discuss the builder’s needs before the baling starts.  If minor adjustments to the baler were all that is required to produce improved bale performance, I bet many farmers would be willing to do it.  
> Derek
> Derek Roff
> derek at unm.edu <mailto:derek at unm.edu>
> On Jan 27, 2015, at 11:23 AM, Graeme North <graeme at ecodesign.co.nz <mailto:graeme at ecodesign.co.nz>> wrote:
>> Are we chasing rainbows?
>> Just about ANY strawbale wall will give higher R values than just about anything else in the natural building world. The science is one thing,  and really reaslly good to know, so once again I give my thanks to those who persue this, but the practical application of a readily obtainable, and variable natural material is another. 
>> Talk of re-compressing bales, hammer milling straw etc, all head in the direction of energy dense manufacturered materials. This may have some use in making thinner prefab walls but moves away from owner built houses where so much of the true joy and affordability that building houses can come from.
>> For my 2c worth, If there was one bit of research I would love to see in s/b is an external rain-screen that can be incorporated simply and reliably into/onto an external plaster system that will keep straw and any penetrations in that system, well and truely protected from wind-driven rain.  In ohter word a hwol assembly that really works
>> Graeme 
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