Straw Bale Construction Building Code (2013 IRC Approval)

On October 3, 2013 the International Code Council (ICC) approved final action RB473-13 as a new Appendix R in the upcoming 2015 version of the International Residential Code (IRC).

The approval marks the latest advance of straw bale construction in the building codes and permitting process.  It is the highest approval to be granted for the construction method and will be adopted by thousands of jurisdictions around the United States in and after 2015.

The process of creating the IRC appendix was spearheaded by Martin Hammer of Builders Without Borders representing the California Straw Building Association, the Colorado Straw Bale Association, the Straw Bale Construction Association –New Mexico, the Ontario Straw Bale Building Coalition, the Development Center for Appropriate Technology and the Ecological Building Network.

Thousands of hours of work have been donated by Martin and various individuals within the straw bale construction community to make this milestone a reality.  We thank all of them for their hard work and look forward to even more widespread acceptance of straw bale building in the construction trades.

For details and a link to a copy of the appendix, visit TheLastStraw.org. A huge thanks to the hard-working bale heads that spent years making this happen!

2012 Straw Bale Olympics

The 2012 International Straw Bale Builders’ Conference hosted by the Colorado Straw Bale Association was a gathering of over 200 builders, architects, engineers, plaster professionals, researchers and educators from 15 countries. While much was serious exchange, the Straw Bale Olympics was great counterpoint and so much fun. See more at www.strawbaleconference.com and www.coloradostrawbale.org.

International Straw Bale Conference in Colorado, September 2012

Did you know that the early registration deadline for the 2012 International Straw Builders’ Conference is only a few days away! The conference itself runs from Sept 16-22, 2012.

It’s not too late for EARLY registration for the 2012 International Straw Bale Building Conference in Estes Park, Colorado. EARLY registration ends July 16th July 31st so get hopping and sign up!

If you have never attended an International Conference you are missing a great opportunity to meet some of the professionals from around the world and to experience an event which will boost your energy and confidence in building with Straw.

And if you have never been to Estes Park, I’m told it is one of the world’s most scenic venues – adjacent to Rocky Mountain National Park, the mountains and wildlife are to die for. The YMCA conference site is excellent, and the facilities food and accomodations are super according to friends who have been there.

By the way, a conference like this is NOT just about straw. It’s about plasters, earthen floors, building for cold (or hot) climates, compressed earth blocks and more.

SO – get busy and register today!

I’ll see you there!

–Bill Christensen
Founder, Sustainable Sources

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.

The Global Straw Building Network discussion forum (GSBN)

The Global Straw Building Network is a private discussion list with publicly available archives and the option for anyone to subscribe in non-post mode. It is composed of representatives of regional organizations and other non-affiliated key individuals involved in the general advancement of straw-bale and other straw-use building materials and techniques. The intentionally small number of members range from highly experienced professionals to well informed laypeople.

The ability to post to GSBN is by invitation only. Any posts sent to the GSBN address from email addresses which have not been approved to post are automatically discarded.

Other discussion forums about building with straw exist elsewhere for those who are new to the process and/or to building techniques in general. Please see http://strawbale.sustainablesources.com or https://www.sustainablesources.com/resources/online-discussions/ to join them.

Should you have further questions about the operation of GSBN, please contact the list maintainer/host at https://www.sustainablesources.com/about/contact-us/

To sign up for GSBN or to see the archves (since 1998), go to https://www.sustainablesources.com/mailman/listinfo.cgi/gsbn

Straw Social housing in UK

Recent articles in the Guardian and other publications tells of strawbale “Council housing” in the UK. Council houses are a form of social housing. The local council builds the houses which are then offered at a subsidised rent to people who are unable to afford full rental values.

Straw houses are baling out council building plans

Straw Bale Council House, Lincolnshire

North Kesteven District Council page on Straw Council Houses

Straw House Photo Gallery

Building Research & Information, Volume 39, Issue 1, January 2011, pp. 51–65, ISSN 0961-3218

Bale Raising Sept 12

Sustainable Sources founder Bill Christensen will be leading a straw bale wall raising in conjuction with DesignBuildLive.org on September 12th outside of Wimberley, TX (about 50 min SW of Austin). Hope to see you there!

(Originally scheduled for Aug 22)

Full and registration at http://designbuildlive.org/