[Strawbale] certification of straw bales

asbn asbn at baubiologie.at
Wed Mar 6 15:17:10 CET 2013

There seemed to be a problem with the server, as Jenik (Jan Hollan)  
told me, so I send this answer again to this list.
Sorry, if you got it twice...)

Dear Caroline and all the other balers on this list

I just talked to Dr. Mikulitsch from OIB, the Austrian Institute of  
Construction Engineering.

As far as I understood, the situation is as follows:

* If there is an ETA (European Technical Approval) for a building  
product (like a certain building straw bale, tested in 1 country),
this building product can be used in each European country, with a  
(there are just 2 exceptions: Germany and France, where usage purposes  
are defined,
so maybe you have to get a national approval for the usage of these  
products additionally in these 2 countries).
The problem: building products are defined by 1 (or more)  
manufacturer(s), a manufacturing process and a quality management.
So, in case of the approved (ETA) Waldland straw bales, it is possible  
to build with these straw bales manufactured in Lower Austria
everywhere in Europe, with the same characteristics and attributes  
(lamda, fire-safety,...).

* It is possible, to make an ETA in Europe with more than 1  
manufacturer, e.g. it would be possible, that, lets say,
10 straw bale networks in different countries define 10 manufacturers  
in these countries and make just 1 testing-procedure according to ETA.
In this case the approved straw bales from these 10 manufacturers  
could be used all over Europe, and this is again a RIGHT.

* If there is just a National Technical Approval for a building  
product, these products can be used in the own country (which is a  
and additionally can be used in other European countries, WITHOUT a  
So the permission to use a nationally tested straw bale by  
manufacturer X in another country depends on the national/regional/ 
local building authorities.
They can allow it, but they can also forbid the usage. So it is always  
approved in individual case
(which means that e.g. in city A it is allowed and in neighbor-city B  
it is not allowed to build with the same national approved straw bales).
But again: a National Technical Approval defines 1 or more  
manufacturers and their building PRODUCT(s) and not a system.

* What we all want, is - according to values like sustainability,  
ecology and affordability – straw bales from different manufacturers  
(farmers) in the near surrounding.
But there is no European law or Approval or something else for  
building products from NOT DEFINED manufacturers.
There are just two ways to get a RIGHT (and not just an approval in  
individual case) to use these bales by undefined manufacturers is:
1) the certification of straw bales, manufactured by different  
farmers, certified as a building product by a recognized certification  
2) or a national or European NORM (Building Code).

* ad 1) It is possible to certify straw bales from different farmers  
even after the harvest by a recognized certification authority (like  
in Austria the GrAT –
the Group of Appropriate Technology on the Technical University of  
Vienna), and if certified, you get the RIGHT, to build with these  
"certified" bales.
Just an additonally explanation: this certification of straw bales  
naturally raises the price of straw bales (as it is a work, which has  
to be paid).
The price for such a certification depends on the hours, the distance  
to the certification authority and the amount of bales, which have to  
be certified.
What I heard, but I still get a more exact answer from GrAT, is a  
price of around EUR 1.500 for the certification of all the bales for a  
one family house (800 – 1500 bales).

* ad 2) European NORMs (building codes) stand above all other, but  
normally are contracted to building systems and the ways of usage,  
which are commonly accepted.
Mr. Mikulitsch said, it would be nearly impossible, to define a  
European NORM for building techniques like straw bale building  
generally in Europe.

* So we are again back to the National Building Codes (NORMs), which  
define a building technique and the correct usage in 1 country,
but there is no tool or law or whatever, to approve this technique in  
another country, except the European NORM.

* To my additional question, if it is possible to approve or accept a  
TEST (e.g. a load test) in the European country B, which was made  
(tested) in the country A,
there is no law or tool or whatever to make it automatically accepted.  
This, again, depends on national/regional/local building authorities  
and their approval in individual case.

Conclusio: Yes, there is a European harmonization in building laws,  
but the national building laws are superior (which in some cases is  
good, in some cases is bad for us:-)
It seems, that the only way to get a common acceptance and RIGHT (to  
build with straw bales) in 1 European country is to establish a  
National Building Code.
Although there is no possibility, to transfer a National Building Code  
to another country,
there is a possibility to learn from the experiences in establishing  
National Building Codes in other (European) countries,
to translate it, adept it and try to define your own National Building  
Code in your own country.

Ok, I am NO (building) law-expert, this is what I understood, but I  
think, as it is what I have heard before, seems to be the situation in  

all the best
asbn - austrian strawbale network
3720 Ravelsbach, Baierdorf 6
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