Straw and Earth

An energy-efficient straw bale house is being built on the Mall, across the street from the US Capitol. Natural builders from around the country converged on Washington DC to construct the straw shelter and a bamboo shade structure. Rose Morin, a green builder from New Mexico and one of the over dozen volunteers with Builders Without Borders who built the structures, notes “the strength of homes is in their essential simplicity.”

The eco-house is part of the US Botanic Gardens’ One Planet-Ours: Sustainability for the 22nd Century which features displays from over forty organizations and individuals, including the United Nations Environment Program and the US Department of Energy. It is on view from May 24 through Oct 13th, 2008.

Straw bale construction can be used for a variety of climates. Architects in a colder region like Finland use this building technique to keep the heat in, while in Mexico it protects from the intense heat. Designing with straw bale improves insulation, limits waste and reduces energy requirements while utilizing a renewable recyclable material. Builders Without Borders find because of these super-insulating qualities and their lower cost as an agricultural waste material this construction method can be highly suitable for solving the housing shortage in economically marginalized communities where culturally appropriate.