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Straw Bale in International Building Code?

For a long time, straw bale builders have wanted to legitimize their favorite construction method by getting building codes passed specifically allowing plastered straw bale construction.   A lot of headway has been made, starting with the Pima County code for load-bearing straw bale construction back in the 90s, followed by a fair number of local and even some state (California) straw bale building codes.

But it takes a lot of work to get something like straw bale construction passed in each jurisdiction, and it seems that nearly each new construction project has to reinvent the wheel, educate the local code officials, etc.

To remedy this problem, a group of dedicated baleheads have been working over the past several years to get straw bale construction accepted into the Big Daddy of all codes, the International Building Code (IBC).

International Code Council will hold hearings in Dallas on either Monday, April 30 or Tuesday, May 1 regarding the Fire Resistance of straw bale construction, and a week later on structural considerations.  These hearings are just part of the many important steps needed.

Sustainable Sources founder Bill Christensen will be joining longtime code advocate David Eisenberg (Development Center for Appropriate Technology), builder/architect Ben Obregon (Sustainable Design Center), and architect Gayle Borst (Stewardship Architecture and Design~Build~Live) in Dallas for the Fire Resistance section of the hearings.  Bill, David, and Ben participated in the 2006 fire tests which gained plastered straw bale construction ASTM 1- and 2-hour burn ratings (earthen plastered and cement plastered, respectively).  See the video.

The hearings are free and open to the public, though you are required to register.  They’re also being streamed, in the event you can’t make it but are interested in the proceedings.

To see all the supporting documentation including the proposed Straw Bale Construction chapter, and testing reports regarding moisture, structural, seismic “shake table”, fire, and of course thermal tests, see EcoBuildNetwork.

David and architect Martin Hammer will return the following week for Structural hearings.

To learn about building with straw, see our straw bale construction overview, or see one of the many books on bale construction, or visit The Last Straw Journal, the definitive quarterly journal on bale construction.

Finally, to see an actual straw bale home near you, check our Straw Bale Building Registry.

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