Strawbale Eco-house Exhibit

by: Heather on 04/24/2008
Posted in: Natural Building

From Catherine Wanek of Builders Without Borders comes this news about a strawbale eco-house exhibit in Washington D.C.

New Society Publishers will be parterning on this project - if you're in the area please do check it out!

Strawbale Construction goes to Washington

Builders Without Borders, a worldwide network of natural builders, will create a straw-bale demonstration building at the U.S. Botanic Garden in Washington D.C. Joining a summer-long exhibition, the BWB "ecohouse" will demonstrate energy-efficient design and green building techniques including straw-bale, bamboo, timber-frame, cob, and earthbag construction, and decorative earthen plasters. The exhibit will be on display from Memorial Day through Columbus Day, Saturday May 24 -- October 13, 2008.

The U.S. Botanic Garden is on the National Mall, across the street from the U.S. Capitol. The USBG is producing this exhibition, called "One Planet - Ours! Sustainability for the 22nd Century" to showcase earth-friendly techniques and technologies including edible schoolyards, urban orchards, a solar greenhouse, photovoltaic panels, a vertical wind turbine, a green roof and rainwater harvesting.

The Builders Without Borders display will focus on affordable construction with natural materials. Visitors will step inside a small structure with walls of stacked straw bales, finished with smooth clay plaster.

They may also relax under a bamboo shade trellis to view informational panels tracing America's green-building heritage through regional traditional building, including century-old straw-bale homes and a historic straw-bale church still standing strong in the Nebraska sandhills.

Straw bales may be the most economical and ecological material available for construction today. After a cereal grain is harvested, the remaining hollow stalks of straw can be inexpensively baled into super-insulating building blocks, and quickly stacked into walls by a volunteer crew with little or no building experience. Protected with a proper foundation, roof and plaster, bale walls could last a century or longer, providing an attractive and energy-efficient "building envelope" for human habitation.

BWB will demonstrate this in its USBG exhibit. Visitors will experience the heat and sound insulating qualities of straw-bale walls, and touch attractive plasters of clay, lime and cement. The display will also showcase the versatility of "earthbags," a low-tech rammed earth system, which can be used structurally, decoratively, and below grade for foundation stem walls. Earthbags use subsoil from the building site tamped into cast-off polypropylene bags.

The BWB building team features engineer/builder Steve Kemble, award-winning architect/author Kelly Lerner, builders and educators Laura Bartels and Mollie Curry, architect and bamboo expert Darryl De Boer, and earthbag innovators/authors Kaki Hunter and Doni Kiffmeyer. Athena and Bill Steen, well-known educators and authors of several books on straw-bale construction, will contribute their talents to the display by applying artistic finishing plasters.

The BWB team will also offer hands-on workshops during the summer on special Family Days hosted by the USBG. Dates include Saturday June 21, July 19, August 16, and September 27. Kids of all ages will be invited to stack some straw bales and get their hands dirty plastering with mud. Just follow the aroma of cookies baking in a solar oven.

The dozens of other exhibitors at the Botanic Garden include the Department of Energy (DOE), National Renewable Energy Laboratories (NREL), The Nature Conservancy, the American Horticultural Society, the SmartGrowth Network, and many more.

USBG horticulturist and event coordinator Ray Mims says, "Our hope is that this will be a fun, interesting, thought-provoking experience for our visitors. Our goal is to provide the public with ‘take home messages', empower them with knowledge, and motivate them to get involved in some manner."

To learn more about Builders Without Borders check out Building Without Borders: Sustainable Construction for the Global Village.

Building Without Borders


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