Strawbales are bricks of straw created by compressing and tying loose straw after the grain seeds have been removed. Straw is an annually renewable material, available wherever grain crops are grown. It is a waste product, which is often burned in the field.
Bales are easy to work with, lightweight and require a minimum of tools. Thick bale walls are good insulators against noise and extremes of temperature. When covered with a natural plaster, strawbale walls breathe. Strawbale walls provide a quiet, healthy interior environment.
We use strawbales as infill in post-and-beam structures or as load-bearing wall systems, which supports the weight of the roof. Bales sit on a concrete, stone, or earthbag foundation. A wooden box beam or concrete bond beam is laid on top of the strawbale wall and ties the roof to the building. We stabilize the walls with bamboo pinning and lath. We cover the bales with earth or lime plaster. In many cases, the lath is not needed, and plaster can be applied directly to the bales.
Vital Systems has worked with many of the pioneers of bale building. We utilize the best practices that have emerged during fifteen years of intensive straw-bale research. We participated in a major bale building code testing program led by Bruce King through the Ecological Building Network. This project took two years to complete and has opened strawbale construction to an even wider market.