Building a Straw Bale Home

Staff Member Natalia shares with us her family’s experience about building their own straw bale home.

A bit about Us:

My husband and I have grand plans for a self-sufficient and Off The Grid lifestyle, coupled with alternate education for our children.  So, this project of ours has been in the wings for a few years.  After searching for two years for just the right block of land, we finally found the perfect one right here in paradise on the Sunshine Coast. It ticked all the boxes and we moved up from the northern tip of the Gold Coast just under 18mths ago.  We’ve been in love with the region since!  Although quite settled, we still have a long way to go with the house that we are owner building, but are about to reach lock up stage in the next few weeks.  Amos is happy in his work at Landsborough and I’m very excited to be part of the team here at Maleny Credit Union and in the community as a whole.  Our daughter is about to start at the River School (all going to plan) next term.  We feel like we’re where we are destined to be, surrounded by like-minded people, and blessed.

A bit About the House:

We strongly value sustainable and environmental principles, so it is no surprise that our home is made from straw bale.  There are lots of health benefits too, being made from natural materials.  The walls breathe and there are no nasty toxins in them.  The render is locally sourced clay on the inside and Mary River sand and lime on the outside.  The house maintains a constant temperature of around 20 degrees year round, so there is no need for artificial heating or cooling, making it energy efficient too.  Besides that, it’s just beautiful to look at.  It has a really organic feel about it.

We designed the home ourselves, taking green methods into account.  The walls are 2.8m high and the building is positioned facing north, making the most of thermal mass.  There are lots of windows and doors, with the joinery northern and western walls being double glazed.  The eaves are 900mm deep and there will be LED lighting throughout, reducing electricity consumption.  The house is fully solar powered, with an inverter and battery bank to store the excess.

We are building on a bush block, so require our own water supply and sewerage system.  We have 60,000l tank capacity which will surely keep us in supply plus a separate 5,000l for the Fire Service as we are surrounded by State Forest and National Park.  We considered a reed bed for the effluent but the geotech report advised we only need a standard septic due to the soil type, with 3 x 20m trenches for the overflow.  I‘ve got plans to place my vegie beds over the top of those once the house is finished.

And we have a solar hot water system with a gas booster (as well as gas for cooking).  Conscious of the footprint we are creating, we endeavour to keep our business local, sourcing materials and tradesmen as close as possible whenever we can.  Just to complete the picture, we drive a hybrid electric car which we absolutely LOVE and highly recommend to anyone and everyone, if for no other reason that it halves our fuel bill! 

Late last year we hosted a working bee where a team of volunteers helped raise the external walls.  This is a kind of pay it forward arrangement where those interested in building straw bale homes come and participate, and in the future when it’s their turn to build, a new batch of volunteers help them.  It’s mutually beneficial: we get free labour (other than feeding them) and they get the knowledge and skills to do their own.  It brings a great energy to the place, sharing our dreams and passion with others.  We can’t wait the day that we finally move in, but for now we are comfortable living onsite in the garage and take one step at a time.  The next exciting stage is putting in all the luscious solid cedar joinery in over Easter.  Stay tuned…