Changing the Name “Straw Bale Construction”

Written by Andrew Morrison

straw baleFor years we’ve wondered about changing the name “straw bale construction”. In truth, my thoughts have been casual over that time. I am at a turning point where I would like to lean into this group to ask the question: What is a better name for straw bale construction?

You may have seen my post where I offer the feedback that many buyers are turned away by the name straw bale construction because of the instant negative images that pop into their heads. They never bother to even visit a home for sale because of those images. Once they see the home, they are usually drawn in and amazed at the beauty of the home but if they won’t even come to visit, many buyers are lost.

If we really want this material to move into the mainstream, which I do, then we have to understand how the mainstream thinks. Most people, in my experience, do not want to build a house out of straw because they think it will mold, it will smell like a barn, it will grow grass, etc! That knee jerk reaction is preventing many people from realizing the potential of this great building material.

Consider adobe. What a romantic name. If I said I was building a house out of mud and straw, most people would laugh and walk away. But if I say adobe, images of the Southwest immediately pop into most people’s heads. So, what is the romance name for straw bale? I ask that you start throwing out some options and let’s see if we can agree on something new to draw in the millions who want what we can offer but are turned off by the name.

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14 Responses

  1. I agree that straw bale will turn some people off. I would suggest sustainable house construction or energy efficient house construction.

  2. I was able to get my strawbale project approved by the local building inspector, and insured for Builders Risk insurance, and obtain a builder’s mortgage at a fair rate prior to the completion of construction.

    In all cases, I presented my strawbale project as an “environmentally friendly home with steel skeleton, natural insulation and stucco-coated walls.”

    Okay, I admit it’s a mouthful to say but it made all the mainstream “professionals” comfortable enough so that when I dropped the “strawbale” bomb, they already knew that there were aspects of the construction that they were very familiar with.

    As for a “romantic name”, I pitch my project first as an “eco-friendly” building or a “sustainable building”. The fact that its wall insulation is made of bales of straw is really only one aspect of a sustainable building. My guess is that most people who build with straw are also incorporating materials and practices that make their projects sustainable.

    Let’s face it, the terms “sustainable building” and “eco-friendly” already have tremendous traction in the mainstream media, as well as with a large percentage of potential owner-builders while the term “strawbale building” often (unfortunately) evokes some negative associations. At the same time, most strawbale projects have numerous eco-friendly aspects to them.

    Until the killer-term for “strawbale building” is found, I’m going to be tagging my projects with the broader term “sustainable”, using it to gain interest, and then, for those still interested, I’ll delve into the specific aspects, including the bales.

    It’s worked well so far!

    You can find out more about my project at


  3. Once you find a new name, how do you intend to promote industry adoption of the new name?

    What about using a translation? It would certainly give “straw bale” a better sound. Spanish would give you “Paja bala”. French could contribute “maison paille”.

    Alternatively, you could simply go self-referential, and call it “Nebraska infill construction” or just “Nebraska walls”. Add a “plastered” in there for more description.

    Or you could give up on sounding sexy and just find a nice acronym out of descriptors like stressed skin, structural, plaster, agricultural insulation, stalk brick… Too much to put in one comment! Other ideas?

  4. Hi Andrew,

    Great idea! How about just saying straw bale in another language:
    Bala de paja (Spanish)
    Balle de paille (French)
    Strohballen (German)

    Just a thought.
    Thanks for all the great info!

  5. Thanks for the input everyone. I hope it keeps flowing. I have to say that a second language seems to be a theme here and on other sites I posted this question. Perhaps we’re on to something!

  6. I think the name should be a derivative word from the STRAW like the name of the producer of straw boards and panels from UK – STRAMIT (

    P.S. In Russian the straw is “SOLOMA” and bale is “KEEPA” – doesn’t help here 🙂

  7. Hi Andrew,

    I agree with the second language adaptations, and like the idea of calling mine a sustainable strohballen house.

  8. I don’t mind a new name, but I’ll probably still call it Straw Bale. Straw Bale for me means, super insulated, environmentally friendly, homey and even sexy. But, I’m open-minded and have been doing research and educating myself. Maybe the answer is in educating people, not changing the name. Oh, and I can’t pronounce anything but the German or Russian versions so you would probably have to educate people who don’t know spanish or french (yes, some of studied other languages in school) on the proper pronunciation too.

    Debbi Dunn
    LaFayette, GA

  9. When I talk about using straw bale construction with people who are unfamiliar, I first refer to these “new building methods” as high-performance construction or high performance housing. when someone asks what I mean and I need to explain further, I explain that I am referring to high efficiency and then I drop the straw bale word. By then, they are interested and aren’t as prone to tune out as quickly. But yeah, high-performance construction/building/housing

  10. How about Low-E Super Cellulose Homes. I think another thing that slows down the growth of SB construction is that big developers and manufacturers don’t see a way to make a lot of money. The main people making money on SB are the homeowners, farmers and architects. Hardly the big money boys.

  11. Thanks Lee. At the workshop I just finished teaching in New Mexico, we came up with the phrase “Strale Seven Construction.” It was a slip of the tongue when someone tried to say straw bale. Strale is thus the combination of Straw and Bale and Seven represents the number of courses to reach a standard 8′ ceiling. We thought it sounded pretty cool. Not sure it will change the industry of course, but fun nonetheless.

  12. Have you ever previously taken into consideration adding some videos to a blog content to help maintain the readers more entertained? As i mean I just scan through the entire post of yours and even the idea appeared to be really good though due to I’m just a image learner

  13. Hi Joey. I have and I’ve moved away from it for no definite reason. You can find lots of videos of mine on YouTube. In fact, if you scroll down a bit you’ll see a recent blog post referring to my Straw Bale Minute videos. Click on the link in that entry and you’ll see a bunch of my short educational videos on straw bale construction. Enjoy!

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