Help Define a New Name for SBC

people standing atop straw bale wallThis 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.

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138 Responses to Help Define a New Name for SBC

  1. T. Sarah Lynn Wed, May 11, 2016 at 3:17 pm #

    SBC – Straw Bale Construction

    NBB – Natural Bale Building

  2. Sara in Illinois Wed, May 11, 2016 at 5:46 pm #

    Two things immediately leap to mind:

    First, whatever you choose, it should emphasize the energy soundness and environmental awareness reflected in strawbale construction.

    Second, don’t despair about the downturn. All things have their tides. I heard a program on the radio recently that said that new home construction is down nationwide.

    Do what you love; love what you do.

  3. Mark Wed, May 11, 2016 at 5:47 pm #

    Eco Blocks.

  4. Arthur Argent Thu, May 12, 2016 at 2:56 am #

    Change your life by using ‘LifeStyle Construction’ for yesterday, today and tomorrows homes.

    So a new name could be ‘Natural LifeStyle Construction’

    OR simply

    ‘LifeStyle Construction’

    Kind thoughts
    Arthur Argent
    (South Africa)

  5. Boel Thu, May 12, 2016 at 3:25 am #

    Bale Building sounds cool to me!

  6. Janis Thu, May 12, 2016 at 3:45 am #

    May it make sense, that we have our unconscious code for “straw”. Consciously we understand that straw bale building is ecological, super energy efficient, sound proof, and fire resistant (when finished with clay). But unconsciously (from centuries) we have code that straw is easily burned, lightweight, fragile etc. We have told – not to play with a fire and straw.
    What if there is a way to focus not on content (straw) but on context or coating. For example here in Baltics we have strong and positive unconscious code for using “clay”. Every time I mention “clay”, people`s reaction is positive. Every time I mention “straw”, people`s reaction is suspicious or even fear (for a seconds). And mostly our reactions are unconscious, when we take decisions. And maybe mainstream unconscious code for “straw” is not positive.
    So what if there is a place for “The Clay Fittings House Building”. Or something related to coating/finishing. I`m not fluent in English, so locals may find more sexy name.

  7. Caroline Addenbrooke Thu, May 12, 2016 at 3:53 am #

    Natural Easy-Builds
    Eco Homes
    One-with-Nature Homes
    Breath-able Homes
    Healthy homes

    I’m sorry to hear about the decline. I love your ideas. I don’t get a good response when I mention straw bale homes here (South Africa). People seem to think they aren’t durable or aesthetically pleasing. They’d rather freeze or fry in the traditional brick builds.

  8. Chris & Sammie Ryder Thu, May 12, 2016 at 4:02 am #

    Hyper-Insulated Affordable Housing or HIAH Buddy 🙂 or Just Hyper Insulated Homes.
    We’ll think of more ideas, but that is what comes to mind right now and builders want to build what’s cheap, easy, affordable… I think schools should start having the new generation use this as a study subject…

  9. john baog Thu, May 12, 2016 at 4:03 am #

    -Natural Carbon Homes

    -Organic Homes

  10. Donald Miller Thu, May 12, 2016 at 4:50 am #

    I am still enamored with the thought of Straw Bale housing, but I see the dilemma. Here are some ideas:
    Biomass Cube construction
    Post-Combine Cubes
    BROW Block Construction (Barley, rye/rice, Oats, Wheat)
    Wolf Proof Block Construction (Can’t blow this straw house down)
    Yellow Brick Construction
    Sun Yield Bricks

    Just a few ideas…

  11. Jeff Thu, May 12, 2016 at 5:13 am #

    Eco-Block Construction. A Carbon Negative, super insulated, fire resistant, structurally superior way to build, that is healthy for you and the planet.

  12. J Story Thu, May 12, 2016 at 5:34 am #

    Bale House Construction

  13. Howman Thu, May 12, 2016 at 5:42 am #

    Clay Bonded Fibre – CBF.
    Fibre Reinforced Clay – FRC

    Actually, my wife’s concern with straw bale is not the name, it is the pictures we find on the web. Most, not all, are quirky, wobbly walled, shabby looking with mismatched furniture from the 80’s. It is hard to sell that. There are some that look square and decently decorated, but they don’t tend to put a lot of pictures on the web. While I admit, I’m partial to the hobbit house look, that will not be what I build. (For Marital Harmony reasons)

  14. Ken York Thu, May 12, 2016 at 6:04 am #

    Insulated Block Assembly Process (IBAP)
    Eco-Block Construction (EBC)

  15. Colleen Thu, May 12, 2016 at 6:16 am #

    “Sexy Fiber”!

    Seriously, just leaving out the word “straw” and calling it Bale Building might be sufficient.

  16. David McGraw Thu, May 12, 2016 at 6:25 am #

    I have a few suggestions, but first I’d like to contextualize them. Straw Bale Construction is an amazing technology, and love the idea of using nonstandard materials that both outperform traditional building materials and also have a smaller impact on the environment. Having said that, it would be great to take this renaming opportunity to start playing the long game, so to speak, and ally straw bale construction with other methods that use natural fibers in place of the standardized and traditional materials. With that in mind, I have three names that could be played with to find that best-fit, broad name.

    1. Load-Bearing Fiber Construction
    2. Structural Organic Fiber Construction
    3.Natural/Organic Fiber Structure Construction

    What do you all think?

  17. Reginald Thu, May 12, 2016 at 6:26 am #

    Field Compound Stack/Blocking Construction
    Natural Fill Construction
    Natural Build Construction
    Eco-Density Construction
    Natural Thermal Density Construction

  18. Greg Vizzi Thu, May 12, 2016 at 6:35 am #

    Great Idea Andrew! It really should be a mainstream construction method. Perhaps it should be called something pointing to it’s holistic potential. Where are we going with it?

    In my view, a straw bale house should be designed as a net zero energy home; off-grid, generating it’s own heat and power and further; collecting water and growing food. It makes total sense to design-in a greenhouse for passive solar heating and growing greens etc. Everything about it should be sustainable; straw bale is a perfect fit.

    How about something like: Sustainable technical fiber wall construction; Fiber-fill tech. construction; Insulated Lime Adobe. Fiber-fill Neo-Adobe. I’ll keep giving it some thought; it’s a cool challenge.

    A start would be finding a substitute for straw and bale. I once mentioned the merits of straw bale to an acquaintance I took a survival class with and he looked at me strangely and slowly backed away. (Three little pigs?) Good luck with it.


  19. Vasken Satamian Thu, May 12, 2016 at 6:42 am #

    LIEF- Low Impact Eco Friendly or Low Impact Earth Friendly.

    LEE- Low Embodied Energy.

    WAM- Waste Agricultural Material.

  20. Sean Thu, May 12, 2016 at 6:57 am #

    Who is your target audience – different words resonate with different segments of society.
    Engineers, tree huggers, environmentalists, builders: none of them think the same.

    Sustainable Straw Construction

  21. Debra Mellentine Thu, May 12, 2016 at 7:01 am #

    Eco-Therm-Bale-Construction or ECO-Therm for short.

  22. Brenan Cook Thu, May 12, 2016 at 7:02 am #

    TIED – Total Integral Environmental Design

  23. Melissa Ott-Herman Thu, May 12, 2016 at 7:07 am #

    Grimm or Grimming — Brothers Grimm wrote Rumpelstiltskin. He is the one who said he had a daughter who could “spin straw into gold.” That’s how I see Strawbale construction, “spinning straw into gold.”

  24. David Mount Thu, May 12, 2016 at 7:29 am #

    ANRAP building
    All natural recycled agriculture products

  25. Todd Oppenheimer Thu, May 12, 2016 at 7:32 am #

    Modular Cellulose Building Unit Construction or MCBU Construction

    Concrete Blocks are Concrete Masonry Units or CMU
    Concrete Bricks are Concrete Unit Pavers or CUP

    Kind of makes sense….

  26. J Cornelius Thu, May 12, 2016 at 7:45 am #

    Bale Efficient Home

  27. John Cord Thu, May 12, 2016 at 7:53 am #

    Encapsulated organic cellulose.

  28. Josh Krueger Thu, May 12, 2016 at 7:55 am #

    Fiber Block Building (FBB)
    Fiber Block Construction (FBC)
    Cellulosic Unit Building (CUB)
    Cellulosic-Unit Construction (CUC)

  29. Jerry Anderson Thu, May 12, 2016 at 8:19 am #

    Structural Thermal Energy Wall

  30. Tru Thu, May 12, 2016 at 8:20 am #

    Allwin construction (cuz it’s win win win on all levels: all win = Allwin). Who would turn that down? Who would chose any other option which would automatically (and cheekily) be implied as “mostly win… but with some tradeoffs?” No, I’ll take the Allwin construction please! 😉

  31. Jerry Anderson Thu, May 12, 2016 at 8:21 am #

    Structural Thermal Enginered Wall

  32. Cassandra Thu, May 12, 2016 at 8:22 am #

    “Earthen Builds” “Alternative Construction”

  33. Mara Thu, May 12, 2016 at 8:27 am #

    Any time I try to explain the concept of using straw bales to build a house I am met with a quizzical look….but if I say that the straw bales are used as “building blocks”, much like using cinder blocks to build a wall, it clicks with listeners.

    So how about simply “bale block” or “natural bale block”?

  34. Carmen Thu, May 12, 2016 at 8:39 am #

    I can’t think of a name but maybe part of the decline is due to the “building department” in the towns/cities. We would love to have a straw built home but have already been informed that our local building department wouldn’t allow it.

  35. Suzanne Thu, May 12, 2016 at 8:44 am #

    Eco-friendly, energy efficient building

    Modular bale construction

  36. Scott G Thu, May 12, 2016 at 8:45 am #

    Ag Block building–agricultural block building

    Natural block building

  37. Doug Singer Thu, May 12, 2016 at 8:49 am #

    How about THERMAL ORGANIC or ORGANIC THERMAL CONSTRUCTION. Doesn’t cover all the bases but has more mystique.

  38. Andrew Morrison
    Andrew Morrison Thu, May 12, 2016 at 8:53 am #

    Thanks Carmen. I think you have a solid argument to change that approach because of the 2015 IRC Appendix S. This is the straw bale specific code section that was adopted into the national “model code.” Most jurisdictions have not yet adopted the 2015 code, but it is at least something you can point to and ask “why not?” of your local officials.

  39. Andrew Morrison
    Andrew Morrison Thu, May 12, 2016 at 8:54 am #

    Thanks Mara!

  40. Andrew Morrison
    Andrew Morrison Thu, May 12, 2016 at 8:54 am #

    …or S.T.E.W. for short?

  41. Andrew Morrison
    Andrew Morrison Thu, May 12, 2016 at 8:55 am #

    That’s awesome!

  42. Justin Thu, May 12, 2016 at 9:10 am #

    Interesting to read your post. I had been wondering the same thing for a while now…why hasn’t straw bale construction taken off? Used to be that every year there was a new book or publication coming out about SB construction.

    How about natural cellulose building block, or natural cellulose block, or NCB construction for short. Advertise it as a “high performance home utilizing NCB construction techniques” Really just means a straw bale home.

    Or you could just call the straw bales insulation, and say “Conventionally built home using NCI (natural cellulose insulation) blocks”

    And can I just give HUGE props to you and all the other experts in the field who helped to get SB construction written into the building code! Who would’ve ever thought? Let’s not let their efforts go to waste!

  43. Lauren Thu, May 12, 2016 at 9:12 am #

    Cultivation Construction – Cultivating new ideas and thoughts on green building. Cultivating Communities around the globe.

  44. Andrew Morrison
    Andrew Morrison Thu, May 12, 2016 at 9:12 am #

    Good question Sean. That’s the challenge. I think we need to find something that will resonate with as many folks as possible. It’s really about the consumers though. If the consumer demand goes up, the industry folks (engineers, designers, builders, etc) will follow suit and get involved.

  45. Andrew Morrison
    Andrew Morrison Thu, May 12, 2016 at 9:14 am #

    Thanks David. I like your approach. Lots of good ideas in this thread already!

  46. Andrew Morrison
    Andrew Morrison Thu, May 12, 2016 at 9:16 am #

    I know what you mean Howman. Check out the photos in the gallery on We have LOTS of really beautiful, well built houses in there.

  47. Jennifer Thu, May 12, 2016 at 9:18 am #

    I think the difficulty in attracting people is not so much the name, it’s in the willingness to build a house yourself. That is what my problem is – it’s just such a big feat for myself. If someone could build it for me it would be much more appealing, or even if I was just the lackey working under someone, that would help.
    So as much as I love straw bale buildings, I doubt I’ll ever get one because I just can’t build one myself.
    That said I do like the names people are coming up with.

  48. Andrew Morrison
    Andrew Morrison Thu, May 12, 2016 at 9:20 am #

    This really speaks to the need for better international marketing of this amazing technique. Thanks for the feedback Caroline. I think we can have an impact and turn things around both for the industry and for the planet as a result!

  49. Sarah Thu, May 12, 2016 at 9:20 am #

    Dead Head Homes! 🙂 Back to the Earth Construction, Last Straw Construction.

  50. Andrew Morrison
    Andrew Morrison Thu, May 12, 2016 at 9:22 am #

    Thanks Justin! I have to extend those props to others for getting the code passed. I was not directly involved in that effort. Martin Hammer lead the charge and had a great team.

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