[Strawbale] Plaster and fire safety -And PU question

asbn asbn at baubiologie...
Tue Dec 7 17:51:46 CET 2010

Dear Max and...

About 10 years ago, when we began with the first strawbalehouses in Austria
and I wrote the book with Astrid and tried to gather all information about
strawbale-buildings and builders in Europe and the rest of the world(:-), I
had the feeling, that there are some adventurous, hobbit-like, funny, weird
and a lot of completely normal (in the sense of: they try to look like the
neighbours house) strawbale-structures.

So it started in Austria with two very "organic" selfbuild structures and
one carpenter-house, which looked like a normal massive country-house and
nobody saw, that there was straw inside the walls.

In the years I stated, that most of the strawbales were used as a cheap
insulation for the ceiling (by selfbuilders), for cheap small sheds and
cheap garden-houses, cheap extensions and cheap small houses, some for cheap
strawbale-gardening (wanted or not) and only a few (15-20/year) as
professional built mostly prefab-houses.

In my documentations (in the books and on our website) about Austrian and
highlights of the European strawbale building-activities I prefer images
from professional built houses to a) show, that this technique has more
potential than building a loadbearing shed on Europallettes and b) because I
didn't get all the pictures from selfbuilders insulating their ceiling.
But there are both, cheap and expansive structures and now - what I missed
in the beginning - some really beautiful architect-planned/drawn houses not
only in Austria or Europe, but also in Japan (you surely know the strawbale
cafè), South Africa (the beautiful Didimala Lodge), Australia, USA,

What we all call "strawbale-building" has just one common sign: the
strawbale. Techniques, prices, quality, architecture, aims and dreams...
everything else has a wide range from... to.

When I am asked for the price of "a strawbale house" (most of you surely
know this question) I can only answer: the price of the strawbales is just a
minimal part of a whole house (depending on what standard you choose) and
the strawbale with construction, windows and plaster is normally just a
third of the price for a finished house. So generally a strawbale doesn't
make a house much cheaper, it is the will and power to build it or some
parts of it by yourself.

What we try to do in our workshops is to show selfbuilders, how to do that
in a good way for a good price. Noone is a strawbale-builder and electrician
and plumber and wood-worker and roofer and plasterer and heating- or
ventilation-expert in one person. The more you are willing to learn, the
more work you do by yourself, the cheaper the house.

But I am very happy, that I can show some really good strawbale-architecture
now around the world in my presentations to convince authorities,
politicans, architects, carpenters and people, who decide to sell a finished
house with all extras (to a sometimes exclusive price).

You can buy a piece of meat (or vegetable, if you want) and make fast food
out of it or - with some phantasy ­ a gourmet-dinner. The first option is
cheap (because it takes no time), the second is sometimes time-consuming and
thank God - we don't measure our times in the kitchen...

I like both.

Mit lieben Grüßen
Herbert Gruber
asbn - austrian strawbale network
Österreichisches Netzwerk für Strohballenbau
3720 Ravelsbach, Baierdorf 6
Email: asbn at baubiologie...

> Dear Andre and Bane
>> Plaster and fire safety:www.svepomocnastaveni.cz/?p=81
> Bane: Using my typical level of diplomacy (which is not unlike what's
> now publicly displayed by Wikileaks!), I suggested he rather promoted
> his skills here: www.darwinawards.com (!) [Unfortunately they don't hand
> out pre-mortal awards!]
> Andre: Yes, lovely with a free world and all that jazz; problem is that
> such actions has much further reaching effects than the personal one.
> I've witnessed how in Denmark SB building is [Generally!] for the left
> wing do-it-yourself'er, which several SB folks believe is due to the
> effect SB building was introduced in DK; Through Steen Mollers lovely TV
> documentary, making a small cottage in his backyard. I love it, but fact
> is SB building can do so much more.  Opposite; in countries such as
> Austria, Switzerland and Belgium, it's my impression that SB building
> [Generally!] is for the wealthy folks who can afford a fine architect
> custom build low-energy house. Also good, but it excludes the main stream.
> My concern is that I'd love SB building in CZ to be attractive for the
> mainstream. They won't care much for the ecology of the straw, but for
> the final low-energy modern house, and preferably at a lower cost than
> the once they currently invest in, made from unsustainable materials
> made by foreign owned companies. This brings me back to the issue of the
> unplastered house. Should it burn, (and worse; kill someone), it will be
> virtually impossible to pursuade mainstream to move into a house with
> SB's in the walls. -It's bad enough that we have to pay 150% in fire
> insurance already!!
> Lastly PU:
> Kurt: What's your information about toxicity of Poly Urethan? (Used as
> glue in OSB). As an Ing. in Environmental Management, I'd instantly
> point at the lifecycle issue of it; how the heck do you separate the
> stuff, in order to dispose/recycle the items separately????  Any
> solutions for that, Herbert? ;o)
> Cheers,
> Max
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