A Moonah family is rapt with their cosy and affordable new straw bale home
After their first Tassie winter in their new straw bale home Moonah couple Sam and Bronwyn can’t believe how much they love it, especially when they found they didn’t need to turn the heater on once, writes JARRAD BEVAN
WHEN planning their family home in Moonah, Sam Keely and Bronwyn Lysaght thought their small block size would mean they would have to build a double-storey home.
While they had some experience with rammed earth construction, they had always been interested in straw bale houses, too.
“Our first conversation with Middle-Earth Constructions was a turning point toward straw bale construction,” Sam said.
The family’s building designer James Kendal from Deep Green Building Design initially drew up plans for a double height shipping container house to fit on top of an empty swimming pool already on the block.
“At a meeting with Phil Hart at Middle-Earth, he could clearly see what we were after,” Sam said.
Phil explained that a double storey build wasn’t a problem and that straw bales turned on their side would provide the same level of insulation at a reduced width.
From that point, Sam and Bronwyn
We love our big tree poles which we cut down from a friend’s block ... Orla loves hugging the poles
were sold. The family, including their little one Orla, have just experienced their first Tassie winter in the house, with pleasant results.
“We love it. We didn’t need a heater throughout winter, which was amazing,” he said. “Our double-storey glass wall provides nice views and is useful for letting the sun in to warm the house.
“We love our big tree poles which we cut down from a friend’s block and debarked ourselves; Orla loves hugging the poles.
“And having clay render and an unpainted timber finish inside is great. They are really solid materials that make the house feel warm and liveable.”
Middle-Earth Constructions builder Toby Hart said the main attraction for many people building with straw bales was that their home will be “comfortable to live in”.
“Straw appeals to people who like their
individuality and don’t want to live in a factory-produced, mass-market house,” he said.
Toby said straw walls are considerably thick, about 500mm-600mm, which provides incredible insulation that is “far superior to fibreglass batts”.
“This also helps meet the mandatory energy requirements plus straw is a very forgiving material and can be used to design a home that is modern, striking and minimalist, or as soft, cosy, and rustic as you like,” he said.
A well-organised straw bale build does not differ much to that of any bespoke or one-off construction project with regards to the time the build takes.
Toby said the cost is dictated less by materials than by a house’s design; naturally, a complicated or larger building will always cost more than a simple, smaller one.
Toby said over time peoples’ knowledge and awareness about sustainability and environment-friendly building techniques has increased.
“These issues are becoming more mainstream,” he said. “In Australia there are legislative requirements that are forcing consumers to build in a more environmentally-friendly way, and while that doesn’t necessarily have to be out of more natural materials there can be an easier way to achieve better star-ratings.”