[GSBN] Straw bale building in tropical areas

André de Bouter forum at lamaisonenpaille.com
Fri Sep 8 05:59:02 CDT 2017

Salut Noé and other baleheads,

When deciding to built, or not, a small cabin with bales in Auroville, 
Tamil Nadu, India in 2000, I looked arround. That region has a monsoon 
season with very heavy downpours, but a much longer dry season.
I noticed that the rice-straw stacked in the field (without any 
protection) held up very well. The rice straw looked more like leafs, 
and the straw pile simply sheds the water away. Farmers confirmed me 
that the straw stacked in the field is only atacked by rats.

The sb building that flooded (about 50cm/2 feet) at a university in 
richy that René mentioned did indeed dry out. It was cement plastered on 
both sides, if I remember correctly.

I have no idea if my little cabin still exists. Maybe a good excuse to 
plan a new trip to India, eh?  ;-)
Needless to say, I totally agree with Martin, DESIGN, building and 
maintenance are key, and some drying time.

I don't think that straw-clay would hold up better than bales. I've seen 
(fermentation?) spots developping through earth plaser on straw-clay 
that made me steer away from it.

Bale on,
André de Bouter

Le 12/07/2017 à 08:04, Bohdan Dorniak a écrit :
> Martin
> Fantastic  reply and links – I was sceptic about constructing in the 
> tropics – but it is do-able
> Regards
> Bohdan – aussie architect
> *From:*Gsbn [mailto:gsbn-bounces at sustainablesources.com] *On Behalf Of 
> *Martin Hammer
> *Sent:* Wednesday, 12 July 2017 2:50 PM
> *To:* GSBN
> *Cc:* Jeni Kardinal
> *Subject:* Re: [GSBN] Straw bale building in tropical areas
> Hi Noé (and Bob and all),
> I wanted to respond to the first email on the subject, but knew it 
> would take time to answer properly. Now that my name has been called 
> out . . .
> Andy Mueller (on this list) and I and others (incl. Tina Therrien, 
> also on this list) built the first SB building in *Haiti* in 2010-11.
> We had the same question about building with straw in Haiti that you 
> have about Benin. Haiti’s tropical climate includes periods of heavy 
> rain, including hurricanes, and moderate to high humidity.
> To answer the question, we installed 29 moisture sensors in the walls 
> in our Haiti SB building. Readings over its first three years showed 
> good performance. Some readings, just before plaster, were over 20%, 
> but over the first 2-1/2 years almost all readings stabilized between 
> 8-14%. (I’ve attached a table of readings from 2010-2013.) Some 
> readings where the bales are in contact with the gravel bag stem wall, 
> including ones I took at end of 2013, rose above 20%, but I feel this 
> is a matter of detailing, not climate.
> The building also withstood hurricane Matthew in 2016 with only minor 
> repair needed in an exposed area of plaster at its gable end. 
> However moisture readings have not been taken since then, and it took 
> a hard but not direct hit from the powerful hurricane. More about 
> the “Ti Kay Pay” (small straw house in Kreyol) can be seen at 
> http://builderswithoutborders.org/ . A second SB building was 
> constructed in Haiti in 2014 by an Italian organization but I don’t 
> have information about its performance.
> There are other examples of SB buildings in places of high rainfall 
> and/or humidity worth looking at.
> *Sri Lanka*: The first SB building in Sri Lanka was constructed in 
> 2005. I’ve attached a technical paper, /Performance of Straw Bale 
> Houses in Tropical Climatic Condition/, though it is more about its 
> thermal performance than moisture issues. Here is a link to an article 
> on the handsome building: 
> http://www.thearchitect.lk/2009/10/a-house-of-straw-2/  Piyal Ganepoal 
> was the project manager. You might be able to obtain information about 
> the moisture performance of the building from him via Facebook or 
> Linked-In.
> *Bali:*American architect Jeni Kardinal (copied here) designed and 
> oversaw the construction (with husband Frank Hyde) of the first SB 
> building in Bali (Indonesia) in 2014. You can read about and see this 
> beautiful building (and its beautiful compression mould !) in a Last 
> Straw article at http://thelaststraw.org/straw-bale-in-bali/ . I’m not 
> sure how it has performed regarding moisture, though when I saw Jeni 
> at the 2016 ISBC in New Zealand I think she indicated so far there 
> were no problems. Maybe she can offer more if she reads this.
> *Nepal:*Our BWB team plans to build the first straw bale building in 
> Nepal in October (actually the second if a very temporary building by 
> others is counted). Nepal has a monsoon season and moderate to high 
> humidity. We have full confidence straw bale building is suitable in 
> Nepal’s climate (which varies considerably with elevation) with normal 
> care, given all I have stated above.
> I’ve attached humidity data for the above countries (including Benin) 
> that is useful to compare. Sri Lanka has the highest average annual 
> average humidity (79.8%) of these countries, and Bali and and Nepal 
> have the highest single monthly average (85%). You might want to 
> obtain and compare average rainfall data also.
> I’ll add that SB buildings have existed for many years in the rainy 
> (winter) northwest U.S., and humid (summer) climates in the northeast 
> and southeast U.S. that have performed well, including the famous 
> Burritt Mansion in Alabama, built in 1938.
> The bottom line for me is that high rainfall and high humidity by 
> themselves will not cause a straw bale building to fail due to 
> moisture. Good design/detailing, good construction, and reasonable 
> maintenance are what allow all SB buildings to endure, maybe even 
> indefinitely. _However_, if water enters a wall due to failure of one 
> or more of the three good practices I just mentioned, a SB building in 
> a climate with high rainfall and/or high humidity will be at _greater 
> risk_ of damage or failure.
> Best regards.
> Martin Hammer
> */Martin Hammer, Architect/**/
> /*/Co-director//
> //Builders Without Borders
> /Berkeley, CA, USA
> 510-684-4488 (mobile US)
> skype: martinfhammer
> www.builderswithoutborders.org <http://www.builderswithoutborders.org>
> *From: *Gsbn <gsbn-bounces at sustainablesources.com 
> <mailto:gsbn-bounces at sustainablesources.com>> on behalf of Bob Theis 
> <bobtheis3 at gmail.com <mailto:bobtheis3 at gmail.com>>
> *Reply-To: *GSBN <GSBN at SustainableSources.com 
> <mailto:GSBN at SustainableSources.com>>
> *Date: *Tuesday, July 11, 2017 at 1:18 PM
> *To: *GSBN <GSBN at SustainableSources.com 
> <mailto:GSBN at SustainableSources.com>>
> *Subject: *Re: [GSBN] Straw bale building in tropical areas
> While working in Haiti I desperately wanted to test ways to create 
> local roof insulation,  to  alleviate the infra red oven created by  a 
> tin roof.  My principal concern wasn’t rot, but critters nesting in 
> it. My first notion was to mix the local fibers with quicklime, but I 
> didn't have a chance to field test it.
> But we DO have a 2010 field test of straw bale construction there: 
>  Martin Hammer, what do you hear from the little cottage?
> Bob
>     On Jul 11, 2017, at 11:49 AM, Derek Stearns Roff <derek at unm.edu
>     <mailto:derek at unm.edu>> wrote:
>     I don’t have the experience in a very humid, continuously warm
>     tropical environment, to propose a natural building solution.
>      Looking at the current local solutions is always a good place to
>     start.  There is also the question of what materials are
>     available.  But starting from a place of ignorance about the
>     place, if I wanted to include lots of insulation where mold and
>     moisture are a big concern, then I would consider blown-in
>     fiberglass (NOT fiberglass batts), which has several moisture/mold
>     advantages.
>     Best wishes,
>     Derek
>     Derek Roff
>     derek at unm.edu <mailto:derek at unm.edu>
>         On Jul 11, 2017, at 2:25 PM, Noé Solsona
>         <noe at anarchitecture.org <mailto:noe at anarchitecture.org>> wrote:
>         Hello ballers,
>         Am still looking for advices on that topic because I have more
>         request for building with bale in hot and humid climate like
>         Guadeloupe, Benin, Sénégal.
>         Many thanks in advance.
>         Noé…
>         Le 29 juin 2017 à 08:17, Noé Solsona <noe at anarchitecture.org
>         <mailto:noe at anarchitecture.org>> a écrit :
>         Hello Derek and Bill,
>         Thanks for your returns, and advice regarding analyzing the
>         moisture effect.
>         I definitely agree with you Bill, that’s why I wrote to the
>         GSBN to ask how to do and if it’s possible or suitable to
>         build with straw in tropical climate ? Because I don’t want to
>         be dependent and risk the failure of the air conditioning.
>         So am very wondering if it’s possible to build with straw ??
>         Would it be better with light straw ?
>         Thanks for your advices.
>         Noé...
>         Le 28 juin 2017 à 19:47, Bill Christensen
>         <lists at sustainablesources.com
>         <mailto:lists at sustainablesources.com>> a écrit :
>         Hi Noé, et al,
>         Over the years I've become a fan of the concept of passive
>         sustainability:  specifically, what happens to the building
>         when power and mechanical systems such as air conditioning fail?
>         In the wall described below, you're creating a dependence on
>         the air conditioning system, and therefore setting yourself up
>         for potential wall failure if the A/C goes down for an
>         extended period, whether due to something as simple as
>         financial constraints or as extensive as global apocalypse.
>         Better to build without such dependencies whenever possible.
>         On 6/26/17 4:26 PM, Noé Solsona wrote:
>         But I also hear that it could be possible if we have a vapor
>         block membrane in the outside, and clay plastering in the
>         inside with a good and strong air conditioning system.
>         What do you think ?
>         -- 
>         Bill Christensen
>         http://SustainableSources.com <http://sustainablesources.com/>
>         http://LinkedIn.com/in/billc108 <http://linkedin.com/in/billc108>
> On 6/26/17, 2:26 PM, "Gsbn on behalf of Noé Solsona" 
> <gsbn-bounces at sustainablesources.com 
> <mailto:gsbn-bounces at sustainablesources.com> on behalf of 
> noe at anarchitecture.org <mailto:noe at anarchitecture.org>> wrote:
>     Hello Balers,
>     Hope you are all fine in the full season arriving ?
>     Back from the ESBG in Venise where I made great contact to go and
>     give courses on plastering bales and mechanization of plastering,
>     I got one request for building with bales in Benin.
>     Did any one of you did such experience or heard of such one in
>     this kind of area’s ?
>     I know that I have always heard that we can build with bales all
>     around the world where there is straw, but not in tropical places.
>     But I also hear that it could be possible if we have a vapor block
>     membrane in the outside, and clay plastering in the inside with a
>     good and strong air conditioning system.
>     What do you think ?
>     Thank you very much in advance for your brith advices ;)
>     Noé from France
>     CalyClay
>     Noé Solsona
>     ZI des Monts du Matin
>     100 rue des Lauriers
>     26730 EYMEUX
>     France
>     P. : +33 (0) 617 421 050
>     T. : +33 (0) 482 533 110
>     F. : +33 (0) 482 533 111
>     noe at calyclay.com <mailto:noe at calyclay.com>
>     www.calyclay.com <http://www.calyclay.com>
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