MotherJones MA93: Huff and puff-proof homes

Fight disinformation: Sign up for the free Mother Jones Daily newsletter and follow the news that matters.


Timber industry officials aren’t too impressed, but there’s a new kind of home on the range, and it’s made out of straw.

Straw homes are fire-resistant, energy- and resource-efficient, and unusually quiet. They can stand up to big storms, big rats, and, yes, big bad wolves. Best of all, they’re cheap–a do-it-yourself, three- bedroom place can go for as little as $10,000–and their earthy, Pueblo-style design lends them a kind of utilitarian chic.

We wouldn’t call straw-bale construction a major trend yet, as there are less than a hundred such homes nationwide, mostly in Arizona and New Mexico. But given the soaring costs of traditional wood home- building, straw homes are suddenly looking like a smart option.

Straw-wall construction is ridiculously simple. For a modest, 2,000- square-foot house, you get about three hundred bales of straw (approximately $1,200), invite a few neighbors over for a “wall- raising,” and skewer the bales onto steel beams, like giant shish kebabs stuck into the ground. Once the more difficult (and expensive) parts of the job are finished–like standard roofing, wiring, and plumbing–you just slap on some drywall and move in. The biggest challenge, straw builders say, is winning a building permit from skeptical city bureaucrats.

But at least custom detailing is easy. We watched one builder stroll around a house, cutting out niches for windows and ledges with a chain saw. “If you’re off a little,” he explained, “you just kick it.”

For more information, contact Out on Bale Unlimited in Tucson, Arizona: (602) 624-1673.

We've never been very good at being conservative.

And usually, that serves us well in doing the ambitious, hard-hitting journalism that you turn to Mother Jones for. But it also means we can't afford to come up short when it comes to scratching together the funds it takes to keep our team firing on all cylinders, and the truth is, we finished our budgeting cycle on June 30 about $100,000 short of our online goal.

This is no time to come up short. It's time to fight like hell, as our namesake would tell us to do, for a democracy where minority rule cannot impose an extreme agenda, where facts matter, and where accountability has a chance at the polls and in the press. If you value our reporting and you can right now, please help us dig out of the $100,000 hole we're starting our new budgeting cycle in with an always-needed and always-appreciated donation today.

payment methods

We've never been very good at being conservative.

And usually, that serves us well in doing the ambitious, hard-hitting journalism that you turn to Mother Jones for. But it also means we can't afford to come up short when it comes to scratching together the funds it takes to keep our team firing on all cylinders, and the truth is, we finished our budgeting cycle on June 30 about $100,000 short of our online goal.

This is no time to come up short. It's time to fight like hell, as our namesake would tell us to do, for a democracy where minority rule cannot impose an extreme agenda, where facts matter, and where accountability has a chance at the polls and in the press. If you value our reporting and you can right now, please help us dig out of the $100,000 hole we're starting our new budgeting cycle in with an always-needed and always-appreciated donation today.

payment methods

We Recommend

Latest

Sign up for our free newsletter

Subscribe to the Mother Jones Daily to have our top stories delivered directly to your inbox.

Get our award-winning magazine

Save big on a full year of investigations, ideas, and insights.

Subscribe

Support our journalism

Help Mother Jones' reporters dig deep with a tax-deductible donation.

Donate