Masters Thesis

As my school career progressed, I became more interested in the building of things and how they went together. For my final project, I began with the desire to build something at full scale. Not sure of what it might be, I kicked some idea around. The final product became an investigation in straw bale construction. I attempted to create a new method for assembling straw bale structures. This method was a modification on the framed approach with a mix of prefabrication. I spent a great deal of time in the shop investigating different approaches to prefabbing the frames in which the bales would be easily inserted.

The advantages to the method presented here are many. It allows the use of manufactured materials rather than the traditional use of plaster/mud rendering. It can be deployed quickly and easily. The prefab element to this approach cuts down on the onsite work as well as waste. Another advantage is the simple construction would allow the construction to be done by the laymen, potentially a homeowner and his/her neighbors. This would also create a community element to the construction.

For my presentation, I construction a full scale unit on the porch of the architecture building. The use of this prefabricated straw bale approach would benefit from some of the advantages of prefabrication. During the winter months, the frames and necessary material can be constructed in a controlled environment. While the straw is being harvested, baled, and dried the construction of the foundation can begin. Similar to stick built homes, the frame can be erected quickly and once the bales have reached optimum moisture content, they can be installed and the remaining construction can be continued. The size of the framing can vary to allow for air cavities on either side of the bale and act as “mini chases.” The exterior cladding would be very similar to more conventional methods used in the industry today. As with traditional straw bale construction, the control of moisture is extremely important and the wall should be allowed to breath in the event moisture were to enter the cavity.

The investigation portrayed here was intended to be  used at the residential scale. While many details were explored, there is more exploring today. My intention is to be able to construct my own home someday. This was the beginning of learning by building. I hope to further this investigation in the future.

Completed May 2012

Software: Rhino 4

Materials: Straw, Reclaimed wood, and steel