Straw Building Blocks Make Warm Sustainable Homes | Home Design Find

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Straw Building Blocks Make Warm Sustainable Homes

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I’ve covered other straw bale construction techniques here before. This machine for tying straw into tubes on the field to build with, and these prefabbed walls of straw from a British company that stuffs straw into prefabbed wall-sized units near the farm…

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…but these are the first straw bale building blocks I’ve seen. What a simple, but great idea. Straw bale construction is eco friendly. Straw is a waste product on farms. And sourcing your building materials from what would otherwise go to waste makes for very sustainable buildings.

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Here’s how it works. Oryzatech has found a way to compress rice straw into interlocking blocks of super fire-resistant straw. The holes act both as stabilizer connectors, just like lego blocks, but also provide the conduit through which threaded rods run to bolt the walls to the foundations, and to allow vertical runs for electrical, plumbing and cable conduits.

Through a scalable, low energy-production process, the company can make and sell an almost unlimited supply of highly insulating, carbon-sequestering construction blocks.

The insulating value of straw is unparalleled. The resulting structure creates (Passive-haus level) R-50 insulating walls, that provide better shear strength than a traditional sheathed 2×4 wall.  Each block weighs about 30 pounds, and is easily clean cut with a saw. California Polytechnic University has tested the blocks and found that they are:

  • Highly insulated: More than three times the value of an insulated 2X6 stud wall
  • Seismically strong: better than wood framing and less brittle than concrete walls
  • Fast to assemble: Block dimensions are 12”x12”x24”, easily dovetailing with other common construction modules. Each block weighs only 30 lbs and interlocks.
  • Carbon Offsetting Technology– University testing shows potentially 50 lbs of carbon offsetting

With all these positives, there is just one negative. No horizontal conduit runs are possible so far. The vertical hole is available in every block, so the fact that these are not available with conduit holes that also enable horizontally run conduit matters somewhat less; however, this is one thing the duo are working on finding the resolution for, because obviously it is still an issue. Though you could design around this, with a horizontal wooden beam to contain the horizontal runs at some point up the wall.

This is a sketch of the idea, at this point, there’s no release date announced, and the two are looking for investors…

Images: Ecocustomhomes
Source: Jetson Green

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16 Comments so far to “Straw Building Blocks Make Warm Sustainable Homes”
  1. Karen Scribner Says:

    Are there plans to differentiate between pesticide and no pesticide residue blocks?

  2. Pavel Zaitsev Says:

    I wonder how do these blocks stand up to humidity or would one have to covert the house with plastic or some other sort of siding?

  3. steve flynn Says:

    How much are thes blocks and are they available in the uk thanks

  4. Frank Says:

    Sweet. Now my kids can be born in a manger.

  5. Hans Says:

    I wonder if fire marshalls would approve this material for buildings/houses. Its flammability rating would be high, wouldnt it ?

  6. Susan Kraemer Says:

    Apparently, not. The fire safety is the first thing solved.

  7. Steven Says:

    I just attended a presentation by one of the guys developing the block, and the block is amazing!!! To answer some of the questions; – mixing a small amount of a natural occurring substance recommended in straw-bale construction into the block eliminates the need for harmful pesticides and also makes the block fire retardant (just the compaction of the straw alone renders it virtually fire proof).

    Water was poured on the block and allowed to set for a couple hours, and it remained beaded on the surface of the bale the entire time. Since the blocks can hold screws and lag bolts very securely, a plastic wrap could be applied to the exterior, but then permeability of the exterior wall would be compromised. For me, the ideal finish would be some form of breathable earthen plaster. However, most are not ready for that so a cement stucco would be most contractor's choice. Because it can be screwed into, other forms of siding will also work.

    The only down side to the block is that they are not available. The company has not found enough investors to begin production. :( One would think with all the money the government is throwing at alternative forms of energy and energy conservation, they could let just a little dribble towards this project.

  8. David Says:

    great idea and looks so much tidier than just plain old bales and I imagine a whole lot easier, I was wondering what keeps them in shape is there some sort of binding agent involved or is it pure pressure used to shape them? I loved lego as a kid this looks so much fun.

  9. David Says:

    I have seen a few strawbale houses at this stage plus cob and timber and they varied from conventional style house to shacks I imagine you could turn out quite a masterpiece with these.

  10. Susan Kraemer Says:

    Great catch, thank you!

  11. Steven Says:

    The bales are held into shape with a non-outgasing glue (about 1% by volume), pressure, and moderate heat. Cutting them in half with a chain saw produces a very clean sharp edge. The developer called them "Haygos", a play on "Lego".

    When it comes to designing with strawbale, the sky is the limit. My strawbale addition is Southwestern, with a lot of authentic Mexican tile embedded in the mud along window seats, two foot thick bullnosed walls into windows and doors, recessed light switches which makes the walls look like pillows, etc…..

  12. Carpet Cleaning Melbourne Says:

    Dad had some fire retardant structural board in his house construction in 1976

  13. Green Jobs Grew California’s Economy Most, Study Shows – CleanTechnica: Cleantech innovation news and views Says:

    […] study: Next 10 (PDF) Image: Oryzatech […]

  14. Roberto Says:

    Three little pigs. 'Nuff said.

  15. John Miller Says:

    Great idea. Have seen many hay bale homes the block design makes this more usable.

  16. Jayson Says:

    i thought the fireproof nature of the hay bale was that there was only small amount of oxygen within the tight bale. With the holes there, haven't you created chimneys? at the least, a supply of oxygen?

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