Straw bales have been used to build houses in the U.S. for over a century. Two types of strawbale construction have historically been built: Nebraska style, where the stacked bale walls bear the weight of the roof structure; and post-and-beam construction, which is then infilled with straw bales. Modern use of strawbales in house construction also uses a third, mixed method, which combines the two methods mentioned above with standard stud construction. Mixed construction strawbale houses may have one post-and-beam wall, two Nebraska style wall, and one stud wall.
Major benefits of strawbale construction include fast building times, low tech labor requirements, a significant reduction of the amount of wood used, exceptionally quiet interiors, and significantly reduced heating and cooling costs due to the high R-value (approaching R=50) of strawbale walls.
The benefits of strawbale houes amount to more than numbers. Strawbale walls are from 18 to 24" in thickness, and give a feeling of solidity and permanence far exceeding that of conventional construction. Wall corners and window and door openings may be sculpted into gentle curves. And stuccoed interior and exterior wall surfaces produce a pleasant, organic effect that people find inviting and friendly.
As the wall portion of houses comprise only 10-15% of the total cost of a home, strawbale houses are can be either more or less expensive than conventional house building methods. But strawbale construction is relatively simple and fast, advantages that can be exploited by owner/builders and housing cooperatives to produce cost savings.
If strawbale construction sounds too good to be true, or if you have some initial concerns, check out the Skeptic's Page for some answers to some common questions.