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Would you consider living in a straw bale house?

Asked at Massachusetts Street on March 28, 2006

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Photo of Nick Givech

“I would. The building materials would be a lot cheaper. As long as there’s a roof over my head, I don’t care where I live.”

Photo of Laura Moriarty

“Why yes, I would. I’ve only been in one straw bale structure, and it was very comfortable and beautiful.”

Photo of Wes Sternberg

“Yeah, definitely. If it’s cheaper and more energy efficient, why not. As long as it’s durable and suited for the area and climate.”

Photo of Emily Metzger

“I wouldn’t. Probably just because I don’t know enough about it. If something happened, I would have no idea how to fix it.”


Richard Heckler 12 years, 3 months ago

These structures are far more energy efficient than most new structures in Lawrence,Kansas for that is their purpose. If the Energy Hog put his test to so many new or almost new structures, no matter what the cost, in Lawrence it would reveal several leaks where heat and AC are escaping. That is due to poor installation of insulation and/or not the best choice of windows.

Linda Aikins 12 years, 3 months ago

I'm not sure. I have friends that smoke, and "staw" just doesn't seem like it would be good idea.

And didn't the three pigs have a bad experience with it?

Linda Aikins 12 years, 3 months ago

Oh - that's right!

I actually read the article now! It seems intriguing!

Kathleen Christian 12 years, 3 months ago

Heck NO not very practical - I can just imagine all sorts of bugs infesting it and what IF you had Hay-Fever, that would be uncomfortable.

sgtwolverine 12 years, 3 months ago

I'm kind of curious as to the size of the largest straw structure. I'm wondering if any of the listed straw bale structures is actually a house, or if they're smaller and built for a specific purpose, like the studio.

sgtwolverine 12 years, 3 months ago

Oh, and by the way, I nominate Wes as a candidate for OTS job of the year.

Sigmund 12 years, 3 months ago

$160,000 for a smallish straw house in North Lawrence? Umm, no thanks. Doesn't sound all that economical, comfortable, or easy to maintain. But I am sure some neo-hippie will think it's just perfect. BTW, what is it appraised at for tax purposes?

Aileen Dingus 12 years, 3 months ago

I'd love to live in a straw bale house. When properly constructed they are more fuel efficient, fire safe, wind safe and bug free than many "traditionally" built homes.

Read up on it before you scoff at it...

neopolss 12 years, 3 months ago

Is the LJW the new seller's agent for this house or what? Hope you guys get a nice commission from the sale. Wanna do an article on my house next? It has a very "unique" foundation crack. You call it unsound, I call it art. We'll settle at $208,000.

lori 12 years, 3 months ago

The stuido is not for sale for 160,000; the house and studio are for sale.

They are no more difficult to maintain than a house of wood and sheet rock, are extremely energy efficient, and yes, there are people in the area who have built larger ones and live in them. Very comfortably, I might add. One or two are usually included on the annual tour of area homes that highlights those that use innovative and energy efficient building methods. If you are honestly interested or have questions, you can check them out then.

jonas 12 years, 3 months ago

If the pigs had had the concealed carry law enacted in their state, they would have been able to protect themselves from the wolf and we would never have had a problem.

just_another_bozo_on_this_bus 12 years, 3 months ago

Straw bale houses can be built any size you want, and the bales themselves are completely protected, and isolated from the living space-- so no need to worry about hay fever or bug infestation.

But they are not cheaper than standard construction. As a matter of fact, it's more expensive. But if done correctly, it's a higher quality method than 99.9% of anything being built in Lawrence these days. You might pay extra, but added comfort and energy efficiency make it worth the effort and expense.

Sigmund 12 years, 3 months ago

One wonders if straw homes meet current City-O-Lawrence building codes? I'd hate to find out I couldn't get a building permit to make additions. I also wonder how many banks will lend money to buyers of straw homes? What are the rates to insure such construction? If I were to buy it and rent to illegal immigrant students with in state tuition, I wonder if the City-O-Lawrence would make me update the sprinkler system?

sunflower_sue 12 years, 3 months ago

There is a straw bale house out in my neck of the woods. I have not been in it but have seen pics and read up on it. I had actually read up on straw bale houses years before this one went up and thought it was an interesting idea. I thought maybe our KS climate was too humid for the straw. I'll keep an eye on the neighbor's house and see how it holds up. So far, so good and I'll admit I do love the deep set windows and the energy efficiency. Don't know how well it keeps out mice. But then again, traditional construction certainly doesn't keep the critters out!

Advice for all: When using a sibling's computer, don't forget to log out!!!

craigers 12 years, 3 months ago

I don't really think I would want to live in a straw house. Doesn't sound like my ideal home.

enochville 12 years, 3 months ago

The only straw bale house I have ever seen is the studio apartment on the front page of the paper, and I don't care for the way it looks. So, I would not live in that one, but I can't speak for other ones.

My dream house would be a log home. The really nice ones are simply gorgeous in my estimation. They are also very energy efficient.

sgtwolverine 12 years, 3 months ago

Cookie-cutter houses drive me crazy. One of my friends lives in a subdivision, and it took me a good long while of going to his house before I could remember exactly where to go. Everywhere I look, the houses are all similar! Sometimes I still have trouble, and then I have to look for his car in the driveway.

But I'm coming from the perspective of growing up in an old farmhouse. There may have been some houses like it back when it was built, but it gets pretty unique after 120 years.

To pair that with TOB's comment: when I walk into modern cookie-cutter homes, sometimes I just get the feeling they weren't really built to last 100+ years.

kansas_prairieland 12 years, 3 months ago

How do these things stand up to tornados? This is Kansas, you know!!

sunflower_sue 12 years, 3 months ago

Hannibal, Did you get that package I sent you this morning? ;o) Gnome has a great recipe for roasts.

kansas_prairieland 12 years, 3 months ago

I mean, if these things are anything at all like trailers/trailer parks..........then forget it!!

I don't want one!

Linda Aikins 12 years, 3 months ago

haha Jonas!

I'm going to head home early today from KC to avoid the storm. Thanks TOB!

Oh yes - I drove by the Big Well Sunday. I did the Liberal-Meade-Fowler-Minneola-Bloom-Bucklin-Mullinville-Greensburg-Pratt-Wichita-turnpike thing. I was in a hurry so I didn't throw in a quarter for you, but I did blow a kiss to the water tower next to it!

sgtwolverine 12 years, 3 months ago

I wonder if Missouri's new coach would live in a straw house.

sunflower_sue 12 years, 3 months ago

Here's a great site for seeing pics of the actual construction of the straw house that went up out in my territiory. After doing a little research, it seems that there are quite a few of these homes around Lawrence.

badger 12 years, 3 months ago

I think the roundabouts should be made of straw-bale construction.

angelofmine 12 years, 3 months ago

derf beat me to it....not by the hair of my chinny-chin-chin!

Not in Kansas, anyway. I won't live in a trailer here either. It still baffles me that they are building homes on slabs here....with no basements. Hellooo! Dorothy.....Oz.....TORNADO?!?!

I grew up in an earth contact home, so we never really had to hide in the basement. We were already IN one. Similarly, the county does not know how to appraise the value of an earth contact home, as they are not the norm. Instead of pricing them at a reasonable value, they're appraising them too high, therefore raising property taxes every year. (make up for cheaper energy costs apparently)

badger 12 years, 3 months ago

Like you would NOT believe, omb.

Last half of my drive to work, I couldn't even see the road or the lines, just had to trust in the taillights. For about fifteen minutes, there wasn't even enough visibility to find the shoulder. MoPac already had standing water on it at 7:50, and the whole of the Republic is under flash flood warnings till a time that keeps changing depending on who you listen to...

We got hippies floating around in little hemp kayaks, and a pair of deer just went by asking if I've seen a guy with a really big boat...

I'm not complaining, though. We really need the rain.

sunflower_sue 12 years, 3 months ago

If Katie "wereallgonnadie" Horner cuts into my CBS Thursday night lineup...she may end up with my bro. On second thought, he got rid of his constantly nagging control freak X, and me being a good person, I could never wish that on him again! (Even if he deserves it just a little bit) ;o) NO, seriously, nobody deserves THAT!

Linda Aikins 12 years, 3 months ago

TOB, I tell that story about Friends University of Central Kansas, and people think I'm making it up. Thank you for the verification! That was just when t-shirts with words on them were becoming popular (early 70s) and that's when they discovered the, er, error of their thoughts.

I also forgot Joy. How could someone forget Joy. Plains. Kismet. Cunningham. Kingman. I must have been sleeping while driving.

wheaties 12 years, 3 months ago

I have had the pleasure to work in the Garrette's studio for a number of months. It is quiet, clean, toasty warm, non-allergenic, vermin-free, and extraordinarily beautiful. It is plastered with several tons of clay, so it is virtually tornado proof. Educate yourselves on straw bale construction before you judge.

kansas_prairieland 12 years, 3 months ago


So you mean that this thing will, in fact, stand up to tornados?

Oh, okay.


acg 12 years, 3 months ago

I don't think anyone was judging, per se, so much as stating that for some of the OTS posters, the straw bale house wasn't for them. BTW, there is no such thing as a tornado proof house. Virtual or otherwise. If a tornado can rip up highways, trees by the roots, entire metal structures that were built with thick metal studs, etc. it can certainly destroy a house made of straw bales, several tons of clay on it or not.

kansas_prairieland 12 years, 3 months ago


So you mean that this thing will not stand up to a tornado?!

Oh, okay.

Now I'm confused.

kansas_prairieland 12 years, 3 months ago

Yeah, macon, good point!

Didn't these folks do their homework before they built this "unique home" see what it would be worth when it came time to sell it?

Doesn't sound like it.

sgtwolverine 12 years, 3 months ago

See, now, I was under the impression the tornado would just pick up the whole structure and plop it down in another location.

That would certainly make moving easy.

mossyoak64 12 years, 3 months ago

I wouldn't recommend a straw house. They don't stand up very well to big, bad wolves.

I would also like to clear my fine name. I think SS is trying to tarnish my reputation. You think she would appreciate having a kind, caring, considerate, loving brother.

Linda Aikins 12 years, 3 months ago

Hi brother! Good to "hear" from you!

However, I believe Sue. Sorry...

bangaranggerg 12 years, 3 months ago

Home owners insurance on a straw structure would be terrible.

badger 12 years, 3 months ago

mossyoak64 - I bet she would appreciate having a kind, caring, considerate, loving brother.

Do you know where she can get one cheap? I don't know if she has much in the way of a trade-in, though...

sgtwolverine 12 years, 3 months ago

Wait, TOB, is that a news item, or are you suggesting a trade-in?

sgtwolverine 12 years, 3 months ago

That would be an interesting hire. And here I thought they were all primed to go for an Indiana grad (Sampson isn't, is he?). All I know is that they need someone who isn't going to get mad and speak out at the fan base like Davis did.

sunflower_sue 12 years, 3 months ago

Hey ya'll, don't go baggin' on mossy. In fact, I do appreciate having a kind, caring, considerate, loving brother. He's mossy's brother, too...and he's not the one that used to stuff me into the toybox and sit on the lid! tear hits keyboard ;o)

sgtwolverine 12 years, 3 months ago

Well, Sue, I think that sort of action is actually a brother's prerogative. It just sounds like he was trying to be the best brother he could possibly be.

(How does my being the youngest of six affect my perspective on this?)

avhjmlk 12 years, 3 months ago

I clearly remember having my sister and her best friend sit on me, then tickle me until I peed my pants as a kid. Then, naturally, they mercilessly made fun of me for wetting my pants like a toddler.


avhjmlk 12 years, 3 months ago

I didn't say that right. I didn't ask them to sit on me, they pinned me to the floor with their butts.

Ray March 12 years, 3 months ago

didn't these guys learn anything from the 3 little pigs!?

you don't build your house out of straw!

bearded_gnome 12 years, 3 months ago

and, SS, that stuffing you in the toybox... that was last week?

I am relieved that ol' mossy is still with us, or is he a doppleganger?

living in a hay house...don't keep horses then.

sunflower_sue 12 years, 3 months ago

OK, being the youngest of 4 is certainly not going to win me any tu wolverine?

Gnome, doppleganger...ha! If you saw me and my sibs you would swear we all had different daddies. A very good friend of mine honestly thought that. Then she hung around us for awhile and changed her mind. Guess the nuts don't fall too far from the tree.

Ceallach 12 years, 3 months ago

Glad to see all y'all haven't started taking life too seriously while I was gone :) I had forgotten how good it is to sit in the sun while bay fishing sigh. Did I mention lunching on fresh shrimp stuffed with crab? So nice, so brief!! Now I'm back in the frigid North!!

I thought mankind supposedly made great strides when we moved out of straw houses -- now we should go back? No thanks.

btw, I've learned one of the most dangerous places a person can be is between fueding siblings. At any given moment they will both turn on you :)

bearded_gnome 12 years, 3 months ago

hey, he was just trying to get ahead!

Ceallach, I have missed your graciousness. glad you're back, all shrimped up and fished up.
good for you!

must run, back in a while. but first, SS: yes, the nut never falls far from the tree but the shell is often very cracked!

sunflower_sue 12 years, 3 months ago

gnome, indeed!

Cea, welcome back! (Even if you are a tad boastful!);)

Ceallach 12 years, 3 months ago

At least here I can post an opinion -- for the last week I've been surrounded by Ceallaighs -- had a hard time getting a word in edgewise!! It's not just a stereotype -- them there Ersemen love to talk :):)

Ceallach 12 years, 3 months ago

I would like to add that it is just a coincidence that the head was found about the same time I was touring Texas!!

enochville 12 years, 3 months ago

Ceallach, wb.

I had wondered why you never made any picks on your NCAA Tourney entry.

Ceallach 12 years, 3 months ago

enoch: The trip and the fact that I had the get sick before you leave syndrome the week prior to driving 1100 miles :)

Although, I would have been one of the "crashed and burned" brackets that went with UCONN :( I always have one with KU taking it all :) then another more realistic set. Chances are the only ones who had GM going so far are that school's students and staff. We listened to the Texas - LSU game coming back, I did have hopes that at least one Big 12 team would make the Final Four. C'est la vie!

Jay_Z 12 years, 3 months ago

Wow, straw homes are tornado proof?!! I guess we don't need basements, lets just build straw homes to protect us from the twisters! Thanks for the laugh!

sunflower_sue 12 years, 3 months ago

Wow, MD, that's truly sad. For the record, me and my sibs had all the usual sibling hatefulness growing up, but luckily, that has grown into practical jokes with extreme fondness and love. Guess I'm one of the lucky ones.

On the straw bale houses: Yes, I think they are nifty, but how can anyone seriously say that anything is "tornado proof?" That is soooooo absurd!

kansas_prairieland 12 years, 3 months ago

Okay, kansasdaughter, I wanna know how them straw homes are "tornado proof"!!

Since the rest of us here are soooo ignorant......please explain!

Ceallach 12 years, 3 months ago

Can there really be data confirming the "tornado proof" advantage of a straw dwelling? How many have been hit by a tornado and escaped undamaged? If people want the novelty of it, fine, it may be the greenest way to build -- that statement could also use some backup infomation.

just_another_bozo_on_this_bus 12 years, 3 months ago

There certainly is a good deal of ignorance exhibited about strawbale construction on this thread.

Tornado proof? Likely not, but only a pretty serious concrete bunker would be. Unless it takes a direct hit by an F-5, a well-built strawbale house will certainly hold up better than any standard stick-built house to severe weather.

If it's built correctly, the amount of rain/humidity shouldn't matter at all. The straw bales are completely encased in plaster and stucco. As far as longevity goes, if it's well-built and well-maintained, it could (and they have) last for centuries.

As far as the stucco and plaster cracking, sure that will happen, but you just fix it. When the paint on your standard house wears out, don't you have to repaint if you want your house to last?

Well, you can go back to chit-chat now. But get used to seeing strawbale. There'll be more and more of them, and other alternatively constructed structures as energy prices go through the roof, and forests continue to disappear.

Linda Aikins 12 years, 3 months ago

Hi everyone! Fun stuff today, even from us ignorants!

Ceallach 12 years, 3 months ago

Hi MD, it never occurred to me that you guys might be behaving yourselves! Now we've stirred up the strawbale faction (who knew there was one :)

I may need a strawbale roof -- can't seem to figure out what the heck the insurance adjustor's report says!!! It seems to say I need a new roof but they have found ways to only pay for about half of it -- gggggrrrrrrrrrrr!!!

Hi Gootsie, was your building among those damaged at KU?

Ceallach 12 years, 3 months ago

MD-I can see I have a lot to learn about roofing! I have 1 layer, the old ones were removed several years ago when the current roof was placed. This adjuster named 225 lb. 20 year (3-tab) fiberglass composition shingles. What did you use to replace the (3-tab) shingles?

Scarecrow? Who is that?

bearded_gnome 12 years, 3 months ago

"just another bozo" also known as "bonzo" and "bonzoid" knows ignorants when he/she/it sees them, st starts the day lookin' the mirror!

yes, CEAl, missed you, and yellowrose wrote you and she says she's mad you didn't bring her any fish back!
you deserved a good vacation. have a hot trist there while on spring break too?

new videdo [video] ceallach girls gone wild, on spring break! just $19.95, plus $465.00 shipping and handling.

Ceallach 12 years, 3 months ago

gnome: I see you are still your bad self!! Tell the Rose that she wouldn't have wanted fish after two days on the road we stopped at Sea World in San Antonio on our way home.

I'm not sayin nuthin bout no trists ----- but my sisters and I did not take Mom with us to Mexico :):):)

bearded_gnome 12 years, 3 months ago

'night ceallach.

yes, MD, some of us quiet conservative types do have lives of passion, too. now, just where's that video... "cealach girls gone wild, spring break, IN MEXICO without the Mom along!

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