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