Small Strawbale: Natural Homes, Projects & Designs

Small Strawbale: Natural Homes, Projects & DesignsAuthors: Athena & Bill Steen and Wayne Bingham

Publisher: Gibbs Smith

Paperback: 240 pages

ISBN-10: 1586855158

ISBN-13: 978-1586855154

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or direct from the publisher.

Review from Mark Piepkorn, former editor of The Last Straw Journal:

A copy of the new book Small Strawbale: Natural Homes, Projects & Designs by Athena & Bill Steen and Wayne Bingham, published by Gibbs Smith, came into the office today. It’s gorgeous, like all the projects the Steens involve themselves with – and, as usual, it opens doors beyond strawbale. Love them for that.

Chapters include Garden Walls & Fences, Open-Air Structures, Greenhouses, Canelo Outbuildings (that’s their place), Tiny Studios & Meditation Retreats, The Shed Roof, The Gable Roof, Small Houses, and Clustered Compounds.

Most of the photos are sumptuous, the accompanying text insightful and inspiring – not at all overbearing. It’s not a how to *build* book, but a *how* to build book. It was an excellent surprise to see the Lander’s beautiful Shimizu-gaki bamboo gate featured (and later in the book their home, with a photo of them that makes me miss them even more), several of Athena’s stunning murals, and – Jack’s Flat! Kudos to Mr. Glassford!

This book fires my imagination and gives me joy.

The Last Straw Journal

The Last Straw

The Last Straw JournalAuthors: various

Publisher: Green Prairie Foundation for Sustainability

Order From: The Last Straw Journal

The Last Straw Journal is a (theoretically) quarterly journal of strawbale and natural building. Issues have been somewhat sporadic over the last several years due to health issues of the publisher, but don’t let that deter you – there are 60+ issues so far, all available as back issues in one form or another, and pretty much all of which contain good useful material on strawbale construction, plaster, foundations, etc, etc.

PDF copies have been available for a number of years, and they’re encouraging all subscribers to purchase PDFs if possible in order to reduce shipping and printing costs.

The first 40 issues are compiled on a single CD.


Buildings of Earth and Straw : Structural Design for Rammed Earth and Straw Bale Architecture

Buildings of Earth and Straw : Structural Design for Rammed Earth and Straw Bale Architecture

Buildings of Earth and Straw : Structural Design for Rammed Earth and Straw Bale Architecture

Author(s): Bruce King

Publisher: Chelsea Green

ISBN: 0964471817

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Buildings of Earth and Straw : Structural Design for Rammed Earth and Straw Bale Architecture

Paperback, 169 pages
Publication date: April 1997

Chelsea Green’s The Rammed Earth House and The Straw Bale House chronicle the possibilities and realities of straw bale and rammed earth construction. Buildings of Earth and Strawfills in the gaps for professional builders, contractors, engineers, inspectors, lenders, and architectural students. It includes special construction requirements of earth and straw, design capabilities and limitations of these materials, and documentation of testing data for use in addressing the concerns of officials. This book offers the nuts and bolts of rammed earth and straw bale building techniques, and why they are so spectacular, durable, and earth-friendly.


“Bruce King has produced a book that is both long overdue and quite timely. While I find most technical books to be dry, uninteresting, and difficult to read, Bruce has managed to provide technical information in an accessible and entertaining manner. Although parts of his book will admittedly require engineering training to understand, even the uninitiated builder will find a wealth of usable material here.”
Bob Fowler, FAIA, PE, PBO past Chairman, International Conference of Building Officials, founding member, International Codes Council

“A revolution in environmentally friendly house construction is arriving. In this book, Bruce King explores the details and methods for building durable and safe earth and straw houses.”
Sim Van der Ryn, Architect, Educator, Author of Ecological Design


Table of Contents



Who Would Want to Read This Book, and Why?
Earth and Straw: Natural Companions
What We Will and Will Not Talk About
A Footnote About Bamboo…

Part One: BASICS

Abbreviations and Acronyms
Structures and Forces

Physical Forces That Act On Structures
Some Other Variables
Gravity Loads
Lateral Loads
In-plane Forces
Out-of-plane Forces
Earthquake Loads
Other Lateral Force Systems

Part Two: EARTH

The Material

Stabilized Earth
Rammed Earth
Stabilized Earth Mix Design–A Case Study

density and chemistry tests
compressive strength tests
moisture exposure tests
bond strength tests
fastener tests
admixture tests
absorptivity tests
erosion and wear resistance tests

Design in Non-seismic Areas
Design in Seismic Areas
Bond Beams
Lateral Loads
Analysis Method
Design and Construction Considerations

Stabilized Earth
Rammed Earth
Sample Calculations

Case 1: Seismic zone 2B

check h/t ratio
axial compressive stress at top of footing
Case 2: Seismic zone 4, wall cantilevered

check h/t ratio
horizontal earthquake load
compressive bending stress
shear stress
tensile bending stress in reinforcing
Case 3: Seismic zone 4, same wall restrained at top

horizontal earthquake load
design fc
compressive bending stress
shear stress
tensile bending stress in reinforcing
wall connection at top
Appendix E-1: Soil References
Appendix E-2: Soil-cement References
Appendix E-3: Sample Specification

Part Three: STRAW

The Material

Bale Variables
Bale Wall Types
Test Results–Straw Bale and Wall Properties

Bou-Ali test, Tucson, Arizona
SHB AGRA test, Albuquerque, New Mexico
Ship Harbour Project test, Nova Scotia
Fibrehouse Limited test, Ottawa, Ontario

Load-bearing Straw-bale Walls
Gravity (Vertical) Loading
Lateral Loading: Wind
Lateral Loading: Earthquake
Non-load-bearing Straw-bale Walls
Design and Construction Considerations

Bales and Pinning
Wall Settling
Sample Calculations

Case 1: Load-bearing Walls

design for bale bearing and precompression
check plaster skin in compression
design for out-of-plane shear
design for in-plane shear
Case 2: Non-load-bearing Walls

design for bale bearing and precompression
design for out-of-plane shear
design for in-plane shear
Appendix S-1: Straw Panels

Pyramod International, Inc., City of Industry, California
Stramit, U.S.A. L.L.C., Perryton, Texas
BioFab, Redding, California
Meadowood, Albany, Oregon
Appendix S-2: California Straw-bale Code

Stabilized Earth
Seismic Zone Map of the United States
Unit Conversion Tables

Base Units
SI Prefixes
SI Derived Unites with Special Names
Conversion Factors


How to Build Your Elegant Home with Straw Bales Manual

Cover, HOW TO BUILD YOUR ELEGANT HOME WITH STRAW BALES.Author(s): Sustainable Systems Support

Publisher: Sustainable Systems Support

ISBN: sselegant

Cost: $55

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HOW TO BUILD YOUR ELEGANT HOME WITH STRAW BALES The How-To Video you have been waiting for. This 90-minute video by Sustainable Systems Support comes with a booklet containing drawings, a summary of the items covered in the video, & a sample of available plans. (The booklet is available without the video for $15). A comprehensive how-to covering the different phases of construction including design, foundation, bale wall raising, roof, electrical, plastering & more.

The New Strawbale Home

The New Strawbale Home

The New Strawbale HomeAuthor(s): Catherine Wanek

Publisher: Gibbs Smith Publishers

ISBN: 1-58685-203-5

Order From: Gibbs Smith Publishers
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Although strawbale construction is beginning to enter the mainstream, many people continue to wonder what a strawbale house looks like. The New Strawbale Home answers definitively, “Anything you want!” Innovative architects and builders are reinventing this century-old technology to create thick walled modern houses of unsurpassed natural beauty.

The New Strawbale Home compiles floor plans and images from forty cutting-edge homes across North America, from California to Quebec, New Mexico to New England, showcasing a spectrum of regional styles and personal aesthetic choices. This practical guide discusses varying climate considerations and essential design details for problem-free construction and low maintenace care, and also points out the ecologically friendly, energy-saving aspects of strawbale construction. The New Strawbale Home beautifully illustrates how building with strawbale allows for maximum personal creativity–whether the finished product is an urban home, a country hideaway, or anything in between.

Author and photographer Catherine Wanek organized the building of a strawbale greenhouse in 1992 and has been an advocate for strawbale construction ever since. She produced and directed the Building with Straw video series, and spent nearly five years publishing and editing The Last Straw Journal. Her first book, The Art of Natural Building was published in 2002. Wanek lives in Kingston, New Mexico.

Hardcover, 150 Color Photographs
8.5 x 10.75 in, 176 pages

The Natural House

Author(s): Dan Chiras

ISBN: 0890132578

Order From: Amazon
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Gracious, comfortable and ecologically-benign homes are being built all across America. You may be intrigued by solar techniques and natural materials, yet lack an overview introducing the basic choices now available, along with the pros and cons of various building options. The Natural House addresses that interest with style and substance.

This exciting new book, written by a veteran author who himself lives in a straw-bale and rammed-tire home, takes the reader on a tour of fourteen natural building methods, including straw bale, rammed earth, cordwood, adobe, earthbags, papercrete, Earthships and more. You’ll learn how these homes are built, how much they cost, and the pros and cons of each. A resource guide at the end of every chapter offers a wealth of information.

This comprehensive sourcebook offers in-depth information that will guide your search for the perfect sustainable dream home. It’s a must for builders, contractors, architects and do-it-yourselfers.

With a writing style that is clear, understandable, at times humorous, and fun to read, the author shows how we can gain energy independence and dramatically reduce our environmental impact through passive heating and cooling techniques, solar electricity, wind power and micro-hydropower. Chiras also explains safe, economical ways of acquiring clean drinking water and treating wastewater, and discusses affordable green building products.

While Chiras is a strong advocate of natural building, he takes care not to romanticize natural building techniques. He alerts readers to avoidable pitfalls, offering detailed practical advice that could save you tens of thousands of dollars, whether you’re buying a natural home, building one yourself or renovating an existing structure or considering hiring a contractor to build for you.

468 pages, 2000

Earth Plasters for Straw Bale Homes

Earth Plasters for Straw Bale Homes

Earth Plasters for Straw Bale HomesAuthor(s): Keely Meagan

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Earth Plasters for Straw Bale Homes by Keely Meagan of Earth Artisans, NM (shown plastering a straw bale house with Jazz, the cat.)

53 pages of everything about using earth and mud for a natural finish on bale walls. Covers earthen recipes, planning, testing, problems, how to mix and apply each coat, tools ( trowels and others) and materials needed, resources, great black & white instructional photos. This is a warm and engaging teaching book!

The book has many recipes good for all types of natural homes and plaster projects.

Straw Bale Building: How to plan, design and build with straw

Straw Bale Building: How to plan, design and build with straw

Straw Bale Building: How to plan, design and build with strawAuthor(s): Chris Magwood and Peter Mack

Publisher: New Society Publishers (July 1, 2000)

Paperback: 256 pages

ISBN: 0865714037

ISBN-13: 978-0865714038

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This book is an essential addition to your straw bale library. Unlike other books on the topic, this material addresses the unique issues of building in northern climates. Straw bale builders, Peter Mack and Chris Magwood provide all the nitty-gritty, how-to-build-it information. They know the many unique construction issues faced by bale builders, including developing plans and budgets, picking the perfect bales, the golden principles of bale stacking, roofing, plumbing, electrical, as well as dealing with building codes and inspectors.

Peter Mack and Chris Magwood are professional bale house builders. Together they have constructed fifteen straw bale houses and structures. They teach a popular, on-going straw bale building workshop in Ontario, Canada.

256 pages, 2000