Straw bales are an excellent sustainable building material given that they are a by product (waste). Once the edible part of the grain has been harvested (such as wheat or rice), the next problems for famers is the disposal of stalks, by bailing the stalks the waste is resolved and the straw can continue to have uses, in particular a very high insulation when used in building , a soft easily manipulated i.e.. cut to suit purposes. To insulate this well ( level R8) using todays conventional building methods would prove much more cost prohibitive than straw bale construction. Thus straw bale homes also offer long term savings due to this high level of insulation through reducing heating and cooling costs, furthering the sustainable practice.
Straw bales have a low-embodied energy, as sunlight was the main energy source required for growing the plant, the additional energy is used to actually bail and transport the material to the building site, furthering its sustainability. Mainstream insulation materials like fibreglass use a substantial amount of energy to produce. Once straw bales are erected and rendered the dense bales with 36mm coating of sand, cement, lime etc they are highly fire resistant due to the minimal oxygen within them and little air that is able to flow into the wall. “Setting fire to a completed strawbale wall is like burning a telephone book, it is not until the wall is torn apart and air is available to feed the fire does it burn freely.”
Straw bale building is a very community minded building style, bonding family and neighbours. Due to its organic nature its a very user friendly material, often less scary for the novice to join in, once the structure has been erected its a case of filling in the blanks and smearing on of the skin inside and out, fun, messy and generally an all in affair.