[GSBN] Bayside Strawbale Hurricane Damage strategy

Derek Roff derek at unm.edu
Thu Sep 28 17:58:24 CDT 2017

It seems like we had a discussion right here on GSBN a decade or more ago, about how one might dry bales while they are still in the wall.  It might be worth a search of the archives.  I don’t think we had a breakthrough idea, but here are a couple of things I remember.  It’s hard to move air through tight bales, but dry air moving through whatever spaces might exist could help a lot in reducing the moisture levels quickly, to below the mold-growing limit.  Blowing hot, dry air has the advantage that hot air can accept more moisture than cold air.  Since the site is probably near optimum mold-growth temperature this time of year, getting hotter air moving through, between, and around the bales might impede slightly the rate of mold growth.  If temperatures were lower, such as during the winter, using hot, dry air might raise the temps in the bales, promoting good mold growth.  In that case, cold dry air, such as from compressed air tanks (or compressed CO2 or nitrogen) could help keep the bales cooler, while pulling out a lot of moisture.

All this is probably impractical, if a large number of bales is involved.  Blowing a lot of air across the surface of the plaster with fans might help some, and wouldn’t be very expensive.  If possible, I would set up the fans both inside and out.  It would be nice if the fans were blowing dry air, but that may be hard to arrange in Houston.  Ambient air is still likely to pull some moisture out of the plaster, and secondarily the bales.

If you do have to replace bales from the outside, post again.  I bet this group will have some interesting ideas, including adding a layer of cellulose insulation between the interior plaster and the new bales.


Derek Roff
derek at unm.edu<mailto:derek at unm.edu>

On Sep 28, 2017, at 3:23 PM, Dodson Harper <dodson at reginc.com<mailto:dodson at reginc.com>> wrote:


Thanks for this email. I called Sarah a couple of weeks ago but did not hear back. I would like to see some photos if possible.....

Dodson Harper
Resource Engineering Group
O: 970.349.1216
C: 970.209.3938

On Sep 28, 2017, at 4:02 PM, Kindra Welch <kindra at claysandstraw.com<mailto:kindra at claysandstraw.com>> wrote:

Hi Folks,   We had the privilege several weeks ago of having a project we baled and plastered in 2015 sit through a direct hit from a Category 5 hurricane, Harvey, as it made landfall on the Texas coast.  The project belongs to Sarah Robbins and sits near Bayside, TX on a little corner of land between Mission Bay and Copano Bay.  Design by Ben Obregon, Engineering by REG.

The bales and their lime plaster did great.  The plaster on the windward walls looks sandblasted with a few dings from projectiles.  A few minor cracks on corners.

However a section of the roof peeled off:  the dark side of the wrap around porch? lightly nailed roof plywood?  … And some bales were soaked from above.

So I drove down and poked it with a moisture meter.  Most readings at the top of the walls maxed out the meter, about half way down the wall we started getting 30-40% readings. “normal” walls that kept their roof read about 20-24%.  The owner, Sarah, has kept the meter and will re-evaluate every week to see if there are any changes.

Besides the missing section of roof, the interior was completely soaked and the cork floor ruined, but thats it for damages.  The solar and rainwater were up a running the whole time, so she had power and water when everyone else had none.

The homeowners insurance is not expected to cover damages, but FEMA might come through with a little something.  Therefore we are trying to keep repair costs to a minimum.

So my thought is to wait a few weeks, maybe a few months, and see if the walls dry out.  If they start to smell we will have to take action. In which case I would like to remove the exterior plaster and bales, leaving interior plaster (re-inforced lime 1” thick - still in perfect condition) intact. And replace bales from the exterior, then replaster the exterior.
What do you think, will it work?  What implications will I have from new bales having no connection to interior plaster?

I have pics if anyone is interested.

Clay Sand Straw
Austin, TX
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