Help Define a New Name for SBC

Written by Andrew Morrison

people standing atop straw bale wallThis may sound crazy at first glance, but I need you to help define a new name for straw bale construction. I recently sat with a LOT of straw bale builders, architects, and enthusiasts at the twentieth anniversary of the California Straw Builders Association (CASBA) and discussed the myriad of reasons as to why interest in straw bale construction continues to decline in the United States.

One thing that we could all agree upon is that straw bale construction has so much to offer the housing and construction industries and that we need to find ways to bring this amazing technology to the larger arena.

Many of us have been working hard for years to do just that; however, our efforts have not had the impact that we would have liked. Google shows a steady downward trend in keyword search results related to straw bale construction, and that trend has been moving downward for at least 10 years. This seems crazy to me because there have been so many improvements in the technology and advances in the cause.

For example, a straw bale house from Arkin-Tilt Architects was named the house of the year by Fine Homebuilding Magazine; we have a newly approved national construction code for straw bale construction; more and more architects, builders, and homeowners  are aware of the benefits of straw bale construction.  And yet, the downward trend continues.

So what can we do? My approach in this moment is to change the way we talk about straw bale construction such that it can be more accepted in the mainstream. After all, if you talked to people about building a house made of dirt, chopped straw, and cow manure, chances are pretty good that people would think you were crazy. On the other hand, if you mention that you intend to build an adobe home, people will be more likely to say: “cool!”. Same materials, sexier name.

So how do we refer to straw bale construction in a new way? We know it is super energy efficient, sound proof, and fire resistant. We know that it is made of natural materials and performs extremely well in high winds, earthquakes, and other natural disaster scenarios. We know that the thick walls are beautiful and provide high levels of carbon sequestration. We know so much, just not what to call it that makes it sounds as sexy as it really is.

Here’s your call to action. We need a new name; one we can all get behind and present to the world in a new and powerful way. What ideas do you have? Please comment below with your ideas and share this article with anyone you think may want to help define the way forward for this amazing building technology.

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how about Eco homes?

I liked Organic Masonry too.

Remember the three little pigs?
LP1 would stand for “little pig #1”, he built with straw. So I guess
LP2 would be standard stick frame construction and
LP3 would be any type of brick and mortar construction.

I’m only halfway kidding. 🙂

Strodder Structures.

I did some research on straw, and its earliest recorded usage was for livestock food, called ” Fodder” in hebrew times, thus running into many different cultures after as a binding or insulating agent for building structures, then named wattle and daub, and cob structures,
Straw was used In structures of Peasant Homes, all the way to Grand Catherdrals.
The earlist American straw structures were on the treeless plains of Nebraska.

Some thoughts on the name:

Fibrous EFIS
Organic Insulation Wall System (OIWS)
Straw-based Insulation (SBI)
Post & Beam with Straw Fill (PBS)
Organic Post & Beam Structures (OPBS)
Organic-filled Walls Structures (OWS)

^ just a few suggestions that I feel have the feel of being acceptable to the public. They sound sophisticated enough to make it into code books.

Playing on the above:

Post & Beam (BF) “Bound Forage” (PBBF)
Post & Beam (CF) “Cellulose Fill” (PFCF)

Paille block construction.

It’s French for straw. Sometimes you do just need a new name.

Maybe “CSC” for Carbon Store (or Save) Construction. A second definition could be Clever Straw Construction.
I think it is very important to connect the new name with vey modern styled pictures examples like this one: http://baubiologie.at/strohballenbau/lasttragendes-strohballenhaus-in-dornbirn-5/
Maybe the Elon Musk’s Tesla approache (showing prestige examples) works for geting out of the bubble. Building homes is also a very emotional Subjekt.

Hi, Andrew! As a linguist by training and a sustainable builder by inspiration, I thought I might be able to give you a few things to think about in order to sort through the number of suggestions you have received. First of all, no acronyms. At least not the all-caps kind. What you are hoping to do is to engineer a natural grassroots type of adoption, but acronyms only thrive in either completely professional or completely unprofessional social environments. For example: “APFSDSDUS” and “LOL.” Acronyms indicate that the long form is either too complicated and/or long to say, or that… Read more »

In Oklahoma where straw is a waste product I was going to build a straw bale subdivision of 220 homes in 2005 and use Strawmat panels for all interior walls from a company in TX where straw is also a waste product. The subdivision was to be built in OKC, the city refused to permit a unconventional subdivision and we had backlash from the State and many builder associations. I was disappointed and built stick homes with brick veneer. So until you get the farmers involved along with the grower associations it is going to be a fad. I did… Read more »

I had only read the title of this article at the time your latest email arrived but I immediately started to ponder the scenario it presented. And now reading your info on the WHY behind this search and the info which Destin supplied in his comments, I would like to submit “ADOBE NOUVEAU” in support of your comment “same materials, sexier name”. Or with respect to Destin’s comments on pronunciation, foreign words, etc, “MODERN ADOBE”. Both are simple, straight-forward and easy to recognize and understand.
Hope this helps!

BSC Construction : Bio-silage construction

May I win a 1,000 sq. ft BSC construction home?

If adopted, BSC Bio-silage construction materials for an eco-conscious, eco-friendly impact as a marketing term….I meant the “total package” as a winning prize. Please!

Super-Insulated Adobe
Thick Adobe

Both are easy to understand by a novice. Some of the suggested eco names are are mouthful and are uncommon to the average Joe.

AGBlock is good with me. Still hoping one day to be able to do one myself. It’s green and it’s strong.

Ecoblock or Ecobale

Here in Europe they call one type of prefabricated straw-wood panels Ecococon.
Just brainstorming…

The 3 little pig… Yes. We all grew up with this story.. For 25+ years I like strawbale construction, and now we are finally building one. Why not sooner? Local regulations! If I build for 50.000, and the rest of the street uses brick, and spend 100.000 I am not allowed to build.. Strange? Yes, but reality in Holland. And this is prior all the building regulations. Calculations refused, as “they must be wong” Walls do not insulate this good.. you need to use more energy to heat your house… Air re-circulation inside the house, pushed by regulations, some whole… Read more »

What about Bio Block Construction

Andrew, I realize this is an old thread, but what the hay. A few key ideas that strike me are that the name Strawbale Construction on first glance might give the impression of building with straw bales as a structural device, and weakness of materials comes to mind. So I’d definitely try to find key words that identify post and beam or other common structural materials. Maybe identifying straw as a natural and inexpensive insulation material as part of the name would help. For example: Straw Insulated Post and Beam (SIPB) Straw Insulated Stick Framed, or Straw Insulated Standard Framing… Read more »