Our Attempt At Building A Small Straw Bale House For $15,000 - Overview
Legally, this straw bale "house" is a shed. We built it in place of our previous shed which was on the property and needed a bit of upgrading. However, the purpose of this build goes far beyond just being a shed.
We wanted to show that you can build a small family house that would be comfortable, beautiful, off-grid + many other good things, all within a reasonable budget.
Live In Comfort
We already know that it's quite comfortable for 3 of us to live in a small (15m2) space. We've been doing it for more than a year now and for the most part it is more than enough. There have only been a few times that I've wished I had a bit more floor space so that I could do some Yoga or Feldenkrais while it's raining outside.
So with that in mind, we bumped up the space a bit to 22m2 (4.9m by 4.4m - internal floor measurements). At this size it should be quite enough for a small family to live in. Some might say luxury...
The building should also be comfortable to live in due to the extremely high insulation value of the straw bales and the thermal mass properties of the earthen floor and natural plaster. What does that mean? Basically, nice stable temperatures year-round.
Marvel At It's Beauty
Not sure if you've ever seen a straw bale house before, but they are BEYUUUTTIFFULLL. It's impossible not to fall in love with their heavenly organic shapes and earthy textures. There's some nice examples here if you'd like to take a peek.
Non-Toxic Materials - You could lick the walls!
Yup, no poisonous materials used in the building of this house. Healthy as bro!
Be Off Grid
Our shed is located at the back of our property where it's difficult to get electricity and water. What a great opportunity! We decided to make this building off-grid by adding solar panels, rain water harvesting and a composting toilet system.
Spend less than $15,000 to build a house
On this project we're aiming for a budget of $15,000. Yes, that number was pulled out of thin air, but we'll see how we go.
Use recycled, natural and local materials
Where possible we would like to use recycled, natural and local materials. This will help minimize not only the budget of the house, but more importantly, the environmental impact.
Make shitloads of mistakes (ie: learning)
Eventually, we will build our permanent and final house to live in... Our family home. It will also be a straw bale house in the same style (buck and beam) as this shed.
This mini strawbale house (shed) serves as a practice building. We're hoping to make as many of the mistakes as possible on it so that we can avoid them whilst building our actual house.
Mess up small scale. Succeed big scale.
Non load bearing straw bale (buck and beam)
Buck and beam is a straw bale building method which uses a timber frame to hold the weight of the roof. The walls are infilled with straw bales and they don't take any of the load.
Buck and beam is the accepted straw bale building method in this country because it is more resistant to our nasty earthquakes. Since I don't fancy having a roof land on my head, this seemed a good option.
Sharing Knowledge and Trading Help
On this project we wanted to trial out the poosh. The poosh is where you can have volunteers come and help you with your natural building project in return for accommodation, food and a few laughs. This seemed like a good option because from previous experience, natural building projects tend to be quite labour intensive. They're much better with friends.
The other benefit of having volunteers come and help is that we're sharing our knowledge of natural building. We'd love to see more of these projects out there... Natural building makes the world a better place :)