Strawbale House Plans: Designing for easy construction, health, and sustainability

Strawbale house plans should include some fairly easy but vitally important elements to maximize the efficiency, longevity, and health of your strawbale home.

Stacking a few bales of straw to create walls of a home should be as simple as construction gets, right? That may be partly true, but a strawbale home needs to be constructed with the same care and attention to detail as any quality home.

Some of the most attractive features of strawbale homes include ease of construction, healthy indoor environments, energy efficiency, and a light ecological footprint. All of these attributes of straw homes are real, but only if your strawbale house plans are created with the unique requirements of strawbale construction in mind.

Make no mistake, a strawbale home can be beautiful, cost-effective, healthful, light on the planet, energy efficient, comfortable, durable, and remarkably fire resistant. But each and every one of those attributes can be negated through poor design or poor construction methodology.

Good strawbale plans will make your strawbale dreams attainable and save tremendous potential frustration.

Strawbale House Plans: Why experience is priceless...

Strawbale Home Plans Elevatio

Recently, we had the opportunity to work on a really beautiful strawbale home in central Washington state. The home was perched on a piece of raw property atop a knoll near the Canadian border. From the soaring windows, you could enjoy a truly stunning view of a valley below. The home itself, while not yet complete, will be equally beautiful.

Our involvement in the project came about when we had a chance to join strawbale construction consultant and instructor, Andrew Morrison for one of his acclaimed strawbale home building hands-on workshops.

Andrew teaches his strawbale workshops to aspiring strawbale homebuilders all over the country (and all over the world for that matter). He has become well-known for both the thoroughness of his workshops and the quality of his construction.

The week we spent with Andrew and 20+ other workshop participants from across the US and Canada was great. We learned a lot, helped build a beautiful home, and made friends that I hope will stay in our lives for years to come.

With all the positive aspects of our strawbale experience, one big negative was hard to ignore...

The architect of the strawbale house plans used to build the Washington home clearly had never attempted to actually construct a straw home. This fact, while painfully obvious to everyone attempting to construct the walls of this home, was somewhat surprising given the fact that this particular architect had won a number of awards for his innovative strawbale designs.

While the architect on this project may have been quite the visionary, I assure you, that no one who voted for his designs in whatever contest he had won had ever attempted to build from a set of plans equal to those that we were working with. Dedication to a successful end product is vital

Vital Elements In Good Strawbale House Plans:

This list is far from exhaustive, but here are some elements of a good set of strawbale house plans. An experienced strawbale home architect or designer will be able to guide you through many other building elements and design decisions.

  • Include adequate eaves to protect exterior walls from direct water impingement.
  • Include enough structure between windows and doors to allow for stable bale stacking.
  • Window placement and sizing should allow for window seats beneath some windows.
  • Include enough room beneath picture windows to allow for the placement of bales.
  • Avoid plumbing in exterior walls as much as possible. Allow room for traditional framing boxes where exterior wall plumbing must be incorporated, such as hose bibs. Isolating your strawbales from possible leaks should be a priority.
  • Wall and window heights should be chosen as a multiple of bale size (with toe-up height and compression factor subtracted).
  • If steel shear plates are used, avoid large areas of exterior steel, which present difficulties when securing lathe or stitching wire mesh.
  • Beware large amounts of steel deep within walls, which can pose a moisture risk due to condensation.
  • A good strawbale home design considers homesite factors such as prevailing wet weather patterns, solar exposure, and prevailing winds.

Strawbale House Plans: What to look for in a strawbale home architect or designer

Rule number one in choosing an architect or designer to produce your strawbale house plans is to look for a professional with experience producing successful projects. Talk to past clients and ask to speak to the builders who worked from those plans, if a contractor was used.

Ask a lot of questions about the design of the homes, how well the professional addressed owner desires and concerns, and also ask about any challenges presented by the design elements during construction and also after the owners moved in. Keep in mind that some minor issues are inevitable in a project as complex as building a custom home, but look for trends or glaring problems.

Be certain to inquire about how well the designer or architect met deadlines in delivering their strawbale house plans. Strawbale home projects, more than traditional methods, can be weather sensitive. Expending the best part of your good weather building season awaiting plans can be an extremely frustrating experience.

One option is to purchase stock plans from a reputable strawbale designer. Andrew Morrison, the instructor from the Washington workshop sells a line of well designed and proven stock strawbale house plans. Look at their offerings at

How To Build With Straw Bales Video

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