With about two dozen straw-bale buildings on their résumé, David Arkin and Anni Tilt found a balance between passive design strategies and the latest in green technologies for this Santa Cruz, California, home. “Straw is basically a waste material,” says Tilt. “Farmers used to burn rice straw, but now they’re baling it up to sell, which takes tons of CO2 out of the atmosphere.” It’s also a stellar source of insulation, both thermal and acoustic.
Ever aware of context, architect Henry Siegel says of his house, “A lot of architects’ buildings look better on a pedestal than in context. Our design would look out of place on a pedestal—we placed it so it really fits its specific site.”
When Anders Stokholm asked his old friend Felix Jerusalem to design his family’s new home in Eschenz, a northern Swiss village on the Rhine River and Untersee Lake, the client and architect agreed that they didn’t want to disturb the ancient Roman artifacts buried in the property’s wet soil. But they did want something both modern and green. Except for its concrete core, the entire house is made from slabs of prefabricated, formaldehyde-free compressed straw.
Behind the this Colorado house's corrugated-metal and wide-plank facade, uncommon materials share a common story with the neighborhood: Of design decisions driven by a desire to keep the next generation—and the planet—healthy and safe. Out back, the paved patio serves as the family's main dining room. Though occasionally snow and cold keep them inside, family dinners can often be enjoyed outdoors.
The straw bale Rosie Joe house was the first project built in the Navajo Nation by DesignBuildBLUFF, a nonprofit organization affiliated with the University of Utah’s College of Architecture + Planning, that architect Hank Louis directs with a group of first-year graduate students. Each year eight to ten students design a house for a Navajo family then spend a semester on the reservation constructing the house by hand. The houses must operate off the grid. The goal is for budgets not to exceed $30,000.
The house includes a rammed-earth Trombe wall for temperature regulation, a south-facing wall all of found and gang-mulled windows whether wood, wood-clad, vinyl or aluminum, the ceiling and roof structure made entirely of recycled pallets, exterior walls of straw sandwiched by clear acrylic, interior walls clad with discarded road signs.Click here to read our previous Material Focus story on plywood.