Tested R-value for Straw Bale Walls and Performance Modeling for Straw Bale Homes

Written by esba

Since the late 1800’s, houses have been built of straw. Contrary to nursery rhymes, these houses have proved sturdy and comfortable and not at all easy to blow down. In the last several years, as people have experimented with new and old building materials and looked for ways to halt rice field stubble burning, there has been a resurgence of homes built with straw. Unfortunately, there has been very little testing to determine the thermal performance of straw bale walls or to discover how these walls affect a home’s heating and cooling energy consumption. Reported R-values for straw bale walls range from R-17 to R-54, depending on the test procedure, the type of straw used and the type of straw bale wall system. This paper reports on a test set-up by the California Energy Commission (Commission) and conducted in a nationally accredited lab, Architectural Testing Inc. (ATI) in Fresno, California. The paper describes the tested straw bale wall assemblies, the testing process, and problems encountered in the construction and testing of the walls. The paper also gives a reasonable R-value to use in calculating thermal performance of straw bale houses and presents findings that show that straw bale construction can decrease the heating and cooling energy usage of a typical house by up to a third over conventional practice.

Authors: Commins, Tav R; Stone, Nehemiah I

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About the author


The European Straw Building Association is an independent European association, devoid of any profit making motive. The object of the Association is to promote and develop the use of straw, as a sustainable way of building in all the senses of the term “sustainable”: renewable, ecological, healthy, energy and climate efficient, social and economic.
The Association is a federation composed of organisations and people particularly concerned with the use of straw in buildings.