Let’s build a house…with straw!


For every construction project, there is a certain amount of insulation needed within the walls of a home. The amount of insulation needed in a home varies based upon location. For instance, Florida is in zone 1, which means that builders should utilize insulation for the attic that has an R-Value between 30 and 49. To view what R-value your home’s insulation is recommended to have, click here. The R value signifies the thermal performance of the insulation such that a higher R -Value means that the insulation has a greater thermal performance. Thus, Florida builders would want to use insulation with a lower R-Value than New York builders. According to Energy.gov, the most common form of insulation for homes is blanket insulation or known as fiberglass insulation. To read more about insulation, click here.

Instead of using typical construction products, Sigi Koko uses a unique and sustainable type of insulation for exterior walls. This insulation is straw-bales. You may ask why use straw-bales? Well, in Koko’s article Strawbale vs. Cob…Not the Typical King Kong vs. Godzilla Story, she states that the “small air pockets trapped between the strands of straw slow down heat energy traveling from one side of the wall to the other.” Thus, this insulation can help reduce energy bills because homeowners will be able to better regulate the air temperature within a home and reduce the use of a heating mechanical system during cold months of the year. In comparison to typical insulation, the straw-bales will keep heat inside for longer periods of time. Additionally, the straw-bale will keep heat outside in the summer and reduces the amount of energy required to cool a home.

Sigi Koko, founder of Down to Earth Design, provided Bucknell University students with the opportunity to witness her straw-bale construction technique during the school’s Sustainability Symposium on March 27th. Fortunately, my sustainable building design course worked with Koko in developing a straw-bale home in the middle of campus on the uphill side of the Elaine Langone Center. This process was an all day event and consisted of moving straw-bales in the shape of a home and then creating mud clay to cement the bales together. This form of insulation is very durable and environmentally friendly. Below is an image I took after my class placed the clay mud onto the straw-bales:

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In recent years, consumers have become more interested in sustainable products and services. After speaking with Sigi Koko, she also claims that she has seen a shift in the amount of homeowners that would like to use sustainable designs for their projects. Specifically, she has seen consumers become more open to utilizing straw-bale insulation within their homes. Do you think this type of insulation will become more popular in the future? Would you live in a home with straw-bale insulation?

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