Straw bale construction took off 30 years ago because those bales insulate — really well. Thousands of straw bale structures have now sprouted up all over the world, most of them modest structures like single family homes. They are warm and lovely and, like every other construction material, last forever if you keep them dry.
Which is nice, but we’re missing the Big Opportunity. The world is increasingly peppered with so-called Big Box stores — huge blocks of uninsulated concrete or masonry that house lots of people buying lots of stuff, and burning gigantic amounts of energy to keep all those people and all that stuff comfortable through summers and winters.
Take Walmart, for example. There are over 11,000 Walmart stores around the world, adding up to over 35 square miles of enclosed — heated, lighted, and air conditioned — space. What if they were to gift-wrap one or all of those stores with bales of straw, getting superinsulated comfort that keeps on giving? What would be the savings to Walmart, and to the climate! (Take note, Walmart accountants: energy isn’t going to stay cheap forever — have you allowed for that?).
Supported primarily by a grant from the California Department of Food & Agriculture, EBNet has completed an extensive series of tests and research on the material properties of straw bale structures. Each individual test is available as a downloadable PDF and the program results have also been combined into a book edited by Bruce King, "Design of Straw Bale Buildings".