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Strawbale House in Alentejo

Updated: Apr 29, 2023

It has become fashionable to call sustainable and ecological home left and right, but few really are.

By Jorge Van Krieken - Cascais - Portugal

Built in self-construction in 2009, (with family, friends and a young local worker), signed by Arq. João Sousa Lino, this ecological house was made with 800 bales of well-compacted straw; wooden structure; several tons of fresh clay and adobe bricks dried in the sun without oven firing (from a shed in Évora); aerial lime poured during 4 years, coming in stone from a [already disappeared] gutter in Borba; clay plasters with finely cut straw; fine finishing clays (2mm); marble with spatolate effect, made with marble powder and air lime paste (2mm); Leka; lime mortars; mahogany window frames with double and triple glazing; Portuguese tiles recovered from demolitions; lime and silicate paints and linseed oils.

And a lot ♥️🥰

The result was a beautiful sustainable "Monte Alentejano" with 100m2, the first rural tourism in Portugal with this constructive method.

In summer we have 42 degrees outside, 23 inside. No air conditioning.

In winter, just a little heat from the salamander is enough to keep it warm day and night.

Outside, 50 cm of straw plastered with clay and lime protect the house. Inside, the 12 cm of clay maintain the temperature and regulate the humidity.

The air is healthy, and formaldehyde does not enter here. The silence, total.

This type of construction is technically very well documented and regulated in Europe, the USA, Canada and Australia.

In France, for example, there are thousands of these houses, including an 8-storey building and a 5,000m2 school.

The original method of construction (self-supporting) is called Nebraska, as it is the North American state where this type of construction began after the emergence of balers, in the late 19th century.

The Feuillette house, located in Montargis, is the oldest building in Europe built in straw, designed by engineer Emile Feuillette in 1920.

But it would be mainly from the 70s onwards that several self-builders drew the attention of other professionals and academics to this extraordinary type of construction, and from there the entire process of official regulation developed.

In Germany, Professor Gernot Minke, founder of the Laboratory for Experimental Research in Construction (University of Kassel) has streamlined many projects using earth and straw bales.

Mandatory books:

La Conception Bioclimatique (Jean-Pierre Oliva and Samuel Courgey)

L'isolation Thermique Ecologique, (Jean-Pierre Oliva and Samuel Courgey);

Building With Strawbales (Barbara Jones); Straw Bale Construction Manual

Building With Earth (Gernot Minke).

If you google for "strawbale houses" or "maisons en paille", you will also find a lot of information available.

At Green Heritage, we know well how to build truly eco-friendly and sustainable homes.

And memorable. 😉

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