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Straw Bales

A home built primarily from bales of straw can be stronger than you may think.

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Ever build with LEGOs? Then you can build a house. That's the philosophy of Mark Jensen, who supervises the building of straw bale houses for Native American communities. Straw is a byproduct of the grain industry that often would be burned otherwise.

According to the California Straw Building Association, straw, if kept dry, can last for thousands of years. Straw bales bond well to stucco and plaster walls, and they provide good insulation.

Straw bales usually weigh 50 to 90 pounds (23 to 41 kilograms) each, and a 2,000-square-foot (186-square-meter) house needs about 300 medium-sized straw bales for its construction. Although few jurisdictions account for straw bale construction in building codes, local authorities manage the construction on a case-by-case basis [source: NAHB Research Center].

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