This may sound crazy at first glance, but I need you to help define a new name for straw bale construction. I recently sat with a LOT of straw bale builders, architects, and enthusiasts at the twentieth anniversary of the California Straw Builders Association (CASBA) and discussed the myriad of reasons as to why interest in straw bale construction continues to decline in the United States. One thing that we could all agree upon is that straw bale construction has so much to offer the housing and construction industries and that we need to find ways to bring this amazing technology to the larger arena.
Many of us have been working hard for years to do just that; however, our efforts have not had the impact that we would have liked. Google shows a steady downward trend in keyword search results related to straw bale construction, and that trend has been moving downward for at least 10 years. This seems crazy to me because there have been so many improvements in the technology and advances in the cause. For example, a straw bale house from Arkin-Tilt Architects was named the house of the year by Fine Homebuilding Magazine; we have a newly approved national construction code for straw bale construction; more and more architects, builders, and homeowners are aware of the benefits of straw bale construction. And yet, the downward trend continues.
So what can we do? My approach in this moment is to change the way we talk about straw bale construction such that it can be more accepted in the mainstream. After all, if you talked to people about building a house made of dirt, chopped straw, and cow manure, chances are pretty good that people would think you were crazy. On the other hand, if you mention that you intend to build an adobe home, people will be more likely to say: “cool!”. Same materials, sexier name.
So how do we refer to straw bale construction in a new way? We know it is super energy efficient, sound proof, and fire resistant. We know that it is made of natural materials and performs extremely well in high winds, earthquakes, and other natural disaster scenarios. We know that the thick walls are beautiful and provide high levels of carbon sequestration. We know so much, just not what to call it that makes it sounds as sexy as it really is.
Here’s your call to action. We need a new name; one we can all get behind and present to the world in a new and powerful way. What ideas do you have? Please comment below with your ideas and share this article with anyone you think may want to help define the way forward for this amazing building technology.