Building With Straw Bale in Urban Areas –

Written by Andrew Morrison

I received an email this morning about building with straw bales in urban areas. Here’s what she said (my answer will follow):

Hi Andrew,
I love your website and visit often. My husband and I are planning to build
our next house as a green building some time in the next three years. We
currently live in a rural area but want to move back to town (Boston). Do you
or anyone else out there have any experience building with straw bales in a
high-density area (like on a 0.08 lot)? We’ve been scouting for the perfect
south-facing lot with no sun-blocking neighbors¦a challenge in the city!

Thanks, and keep up the good work. You are an inspiration.

urban house
Photo by Kessler Woods Homes

First, thanks for the kind words! It is very possible to build with bales under these conditions; however, the large footprint of the bales will have a larger impact on your living area when the lot is small. This means that very smart design will need to be used. Multiple stories can be employed to gain square footage as well as Southern exposure.

Of course, you don’t want to cast shadows on your neighbors either, so once again a quality design must be created. I have seen several urban designs that would work well as bale structures, but I have never personally built an urban straw bale home under the conditions you describe. If anyone out there has experience with this, please share it. Otherwise, I think a smart architect will be the best investment you can make as you move forward.


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4 Responses

  1. Andrew,

    Just discovered you site today and am intrigued. I am an architect in Dallas, TX and we have been discussing straw bale construction in our office. The reason I was drawn to the site is that the house shown in the photo above is a house we designed, along with several more in the same development. We would be interested in pursuing a straw bale project with a client if anyone is interested in the North Texas area. Hammers+Partners: Architecture,

    Thanks for the great content Andrew. I look forward to look into it more deeply.

  2. Shane,
    Thanks for contacting me. I love the look and feel of the house you designed. I picked it out of a group of many to represent quality urban design. I hope you are able to find some interested parties for your straw bale ventures. Let me know if I can help you in the future.


  3. Urban straw bale: I have been researching this for a while to no good success. I too would love to do this someday. For the moment I live in London (UK) but am originally from Boston and may end up back there. I found an intriguing project, done in Montreal:

    Andrew: one of the commentors on the Apartmenttherapy website raises a red flag about allergies to hay. Have you heard of any issues with that? I have hay fever terribly but don’t think I should worry about dried out straw bale because it’s the live pollen that’s the problem for me. I wonder if that person is exaggerating?

    p.s. I’m having a look at your course schedule for 2009 and would love to be able to swing the vacation time!

  4. Hi Jen. I believe they are exaggerating. I have terrible allergies to pollen as well and I also get a bit itchy with the straw, but once the bales are plastered, all of those symptoms go away. Straw is nothing like hay and as suck, the allergies most people suffer with hay are not associated with straw. Hope to see you at a workshop!

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