Straw Bale Houses and High Wind

I have been asked many times in the past and once again recently how straw bale houses perform in high wind environments. The answer: extremely well. I can go on about this in written form, but I honestly don’t have time today as I am busy finalizing a house in town and also have recently started a new framing project I need to get a handle on. So, without further delay….Check out the following video for a more complete response to this question.

20 Responses to Straw Bale Houses and High Wind

  1. GARY POWELL Fri, November 30, 2007 at 1:24 pm #


  2. Andrew
    Andrew Fri, November 30, 2007 at 4:39 pm #

    Thanks Gary. This is actually a new movie I made today to answer the question. You can tell by my hair it was windy here today which is what reminded me of your question!!!


  3. Tman Thu, December 20, 2007 at 10:03 pm #

    Glad to see the wind issue. Here in Western South Dakota the neighbors weather station routinely pegs over 100 MPH. Our straw bale house has held tight when stick built structures have been lost.

  4. Rick Tue, May 6, 2008 at 7:40 pm #

    Tman, Has your home ever suffered a tornado? Do you know of any strawbale homes that have? Is this just a stupid question? How often do stickbuilt homes survive tornados?

  5. Bob Sun, May 11, 2008 at 8:08 pm #

    A woman who grew up in Nebraska during the dust bowl era in a straw bale home reported that the family played cards during a tornado that took their outbuildings – they neither felt nor heard the tornado!

    Having grown up in Nebraska myself I know that tornados are a fact of life there. Which brings up the question: Could straw bales be adapted to rounded buildings such as Geodesic Domes? Between the bales and the shape a building such as that would be nearly immune! Anybody have an ideas? Andrew?

  6. Andrew
    Andrew Sat, May 24, 2008 at 7:58 am #

    I am unsure about adding bales to dome. There have been cases of people using bales for vaults, self supporting, but I have not heard of wrapping a dome. I would be interested to hear if anyone has experience with this idea.

  7. Sajjad Anwar Sat, July 5, 2008 at 10:20 am #

    Dear Sir,

    I just saw a documentary on channel 13 PBS on building a straw bale house. I thought it’s an ideal form of construction for people living in the tropical regions. I am about to retire and move back to Pakistan where I have already purchased about one quarter of an acre of land for building a retirement home. Since it gets very hot in summers 114 F at times and only 0 F in winters, I am dead sure it will be an ideal type of construction. Especially the savings on finances.

    Since it does not snow there, how do we build a flat roof?
    Wood is very expensive in the plains. Can concrete or steel be used instead? Considering the above which came to mind at this time, I wish you could have plans or ideas for such a construction type.
    Which of your DVD will be helpful here?

    Thanking you in anticipation of a reply,

    Sajjad Anwar.

  8. Andrew
    Andrew Sat, July 5, 2008 at 11:01 am #

    Bales will be perfect in the climate you describe. I wonder if it rains there much. Flat roofs are not an ideal roof for bale homes, as rain needs to be kept off of the walls and overhangs are a must for that. There are some ways to accomplish this with a “flat” roof if the amount of rain is relatively small, which it sounds like it is.
    You can use any type of frame for the construction or can use a load bearing straw house design to minimize the amount of frame necessary (roof and openings only). the DVDs we offer can cover both types of construction (load bearing or post and beam infill) so once you decide which type of construction you want to use, you can buy a DVD to teach you how to do it.

    good luck.

  9. Phil Tue, July 22, 2008 at 6:39 pm #

    Not so much a geodesic dome to shred wind But a Round walled or curved wall Home will help very much against wind and wind driven objects. With a wall being round – ish the wind cant build up as much force against it . Wind driven objects will have a hard time pinpointing a direct line of sight hit. In other words , the object will more than likely hit the wall at an angle of some sort and deflect off .

  10. Angie Mon, July 28, 2008 at 6:33 pm #

    I live in northern Arizona. I want to build a Navajo hogan in strawbale. How much would it cost for maybe a 500 to 700 sq. foot hogan cost? Are there any designs out there of a round strawbale house?

  11. Andrew
    Andrew Mon, July 28, 2008 at 7:09 pm #

    Pricing a structure like that out will take some details about the actual building. Round is almost always more expensive, not because of the bales, but because of the rigid elements like windows, framing, and doors. In square construction, I would plan on about $150/SF these days. Round could be upwards of $190 or so. The best thing to do is draw the plans and price it out or at least talk to some local builders to get a better ball park price. With so much market fluctuation, is hard for me to even get you into the ball park from Oregon. Good luck.

  12. Phil Mon, July 28, 2008 at 7:46 pm #

    Monolithic domes use what is called “Window and Door bucks” These are ether inset or extended out of the shell ….like a bay window…… Being inset into the thick bale, the curvature does not affect the mounting surface for flat windows or doors. Thats a huge plus for the thickness of bales.

  13. Andrew
    Andrew Mon, July 28, 2008 at 9:22 pm #

    You are absolutely correct about the bucks. The issue comes into play when the bucks are placed in a curved wall. The windows themselves can remain flat, but that means that a space is created on the exterior of the wall that must be addressed with some type of sill. The fact that curve plus flat equals exposed bale on the exterior of the home must be handled with care or water (from rain) will get into the bales. That is something that will raise the cost of construction and is what I was referring to. Sorry if I was ambiguous.

  14. Phil Tue, July 29, 2008 at 12:46 pm #

    I understand Andrew, If it were me, I would place a inner wall buck direct to the straw , then I would coat the entire inside of the window or door opening with polyurethane foam. let it cure , and cut it back for squareness , Slope the bottom sill out to the exterior. When you apply the exterior concrete coating , hit the window openings too, right over the foam and mesh. Your finish frame then goes in and is screwed through the concrete, foam then to the inner buck . For both of these bucks I would use composite (plastic) lumber.

  15. Ann Tue, November 18, 2008 at 9:33 am #

    I am interested in urban development and wonder to what height capacity can a straw bale development safely achieve.
    Would it be possible ,with the aid of maybe steel support, to construct a multiple floor community building ?

  16. Andrew
    Andrew Tue, November 18, 2008 at 4:49 pm #

    You can build multiple stories with ease with SB construction as long as the frame is engineered to handle the loads. I have built two stories homes over a daylight basement (3rd floor) with minimal engineering requirements above and beyond what would be required for stick frame.

  17. Matt Mon, November 2, 2009 at 1:33 am #

    Hi Andrew
    I see the exchange between you and Bob (re straw bale geodesic domes) took place a year ago. In my internet searches on this topic, I have only found three examples of straw bale domes, one type stackinging the bails into a dome curvature, one where the cylindrical base of the structure was straw bale then a geodesic dome was built on top, while the third is closest to Bob’s concept; This was part of kibbutz project in geodesic dome structures.

  18. Andrew
    Andrew Wed, November 4, 2009 at 7:59 am #

    Thanks Matt!

  19. darin Tue, January 11, 2011 at 10:45 pm #

    Have there been any success stories of straw bale homes in northern minnesota?
    I’m concerned that our high humidity wouldn’t work out so well.

  20. Andrew Morrison Wed, March 16, 2011 at 12:26 pm #

    Not sure of specific locations, but I suggest you contact these folks and see what their experience has been as straw bale home owners in Minnesota. Here’s the link:

    On a side note, bale homes can work in areas with high humidity if you take some extra steps to help keep the bales dry. Sometimes it’s an extra dehumidifier in the house or a heat recovery ventilator. Don’t give up as a result of some humidity without looking deeper. Consider that there are successful straw bale homes in Tennessee, Georgia, and Florida!

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