Straw-bale building

Who’s afraid of the big bad wolf?

We’ve all heard of the Three Little Pigs, a cautionary tale about choosing appropriate materials for your house.

But the story is not in fact all that accurate. The first and second little pigs used straw and wood to build their houses — both very appropriate, low-cost and low-impact materials. In fact, one of the most popular and fastest-growing forms of ecological building is the use of straw bales as a wall material — which can be load-bearing (carrying the weight of the roof) or can be used as infill in a wall with a wooden frame to support the roof.

Straw bales are inexpensive and quick to build with (though the finishing work can take longer than with other materials), but their principle advantage over other building materials is their excellent thermal insulation.

But beware of the big bad wolf — as embodied in the forces of wind and water. We have learned from bitter experience that in a climate as damp as ours, it is vital to protect your straw bales from the weather; we had to tear out and rebuild the first story of our house because of damage to the straw bales during an exceptionally wet winter.

By the way, most people don’t know that the wise third little pig actually build his house out of mud bricks…