January 1, 2009

Environment: About 200 million tons of straw go to waste in the U.S. every year. If all the wasted straw were burned, it would add up to nearly 6 percent of the total CO2 emitted annually by passenger cars. Building with straw contributes to smog reduction.

Fire: A plastered straw bale wall is about three times as fire resistant as a typical timber-frame-and-drywall construction, because the straw is packed so tightly that there is not enough air for combustion. A study from the National Research Council of Canada demonstrated that plastered straw bales withstood temperatures of about 1,850 degrees F for two hours before any cracks developed.

History: Nebraska is considered the birthplace of straw bale construction in the U.S. The arrival of horse-powered balers in Nebraska in the 1880s made straw a popular
building material. The earliest straw bale structure in North America was likely built in Bayard, Nebraska, in 1896.

Pests: Straw has no nutritional value, being low in organic matter and high in silica content, and because the straw is so densely packed, it’s not too appealing to pests and insects.

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