The straw bale house, built between 2001 and 2006, has a post and beam frame. The posts are tree trunks with bark peeled off and the beams and rafters are rough sawn wood. The plasters consist of a scratch coat of straw-clay and then lime-sand finish coats. Inside I used gypsum bucket mix with milk paint finishes in some rooms and regular latex in other areas. The layout is based on the traditional northern European three aisled hall house. It is a duplex–Karen and I live on the upper levels, and the lower level is rented out.
The west wall is cob and the east and north walls are bale. I wanted to try a couple different building techniques. I put the cob to the west as the prevailing wind is from that direction. Cob would fare better against wind driven rain, however as the site is wooded, the wall stays dry. Cob can make beautiful, sculptural walls, however it is a poor insulator and I do not recommend it for our northern Indiana climate unless its recipe included a large percentage of an insulating aggregate such as perlite.
The above photos of straw bale house copyright Hilliard Photographics, LLC.
Here are a few pictures of the house under construction:
The lower level of the house is a separate unit with 2 bedrooms and 1 bathroom. A building with 2 dwelling units under one roof is more cost and energy efficient than 2 freestanding buildings; in this case I also needed a rental unit to help defray the costs of developing the site and building the house. The lower level is fully underground on the north end, while to the south it is only 2.5 feet below grade. It has woodland views in 3 directions and lots of light along with an 8.5 foot high ceiling making it not feel like the typical basement apartment. It has all appliances including dishwasher, and clothes washer and dryer.
The lower level follows the same pattern of niches along the sides of the main room.
The doors are all salvaged from a 1940’s house on 7th St. in Goshen
and the trim in the main room is cherry.