Appreciate value of straw houses in Nevada County |

Appreciate value of straw houses in Nevada County

Many residents of Nevada County enjoy living in the comfort of homes built with straw. We have all heard bad jokes about blustering wolves and houses of straw. When you look at what makes straw such a good building material, objections and teasing soon give way to interest.

Humans have been building with straw for thousands of years. Combined with earth, it is a readily available building material. Protection from moisture, as with any building material, keeps a straw building durable. Around the world, buildings using straw and clay are still standing after hundreds of years.

There is an international revival of straw bale homes, which were originally built on the plains of the American Midwest to shelter early settlers where the land had no trees or insufficient sod to construct homes. Today, some of those early houses are still standing in America’s heartland. One of the first distinctions necessary to make is that straw is not hay. Hay is produced from herbaceous plants and is used as animal feed. Straw is the hollow, cellulose stalk that is left over from a cereal grain and has little nutrient value. Straw is considered a waste product. Because it is super insulative when baled, straw is used for construction. The California Straw Building Association uses the phrase, “Hay is for horses, straw is for houses.”

One of the most important reasons modern people use straw for their homes is their environmental impact. Straw bale homes use less energy to create a highly insulated structure that keeps its inhabitants warm in the winter and cool in the summer. Using natural materials to build your home results in a healthier environment for you, as well as for the earth.

Aesthetically, thick walls and natural plasters, such as earthen plasters, lend themselves to creative uses that are far more interesting than white walls. Testing has proven bale homes to be more fire resistant than standard wood-framed houses, an important feature in our dry Nevada County climate. Each straw house is unique to its occupants and creators, evolving to suit their various styles and needs, generally through the design and hands of the owners.

There are numerous books and information on the Internet if you would like to learn more about building with straw. The California Straw Building Association, a nonprofit association, has information on its website Learn why so many residents of Nevada County are living in comfortable, creative and individual homes made with straw.

Katherine Gregor lives in Rough and Ready.

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