A House of Straw
Step aside, Three Little Pigs.
Strawbale buildings have come a long way from the flimsy huts a wolf could blow down. The Trumpey family in Grass Lake, Michigan, built their 2,000 square foot home from straw, clay, field stones all sourced locally - and timber salvaged from trees killed by the emerald ash borer.
They're living off the grid - everything they do: washing laundry, firing up the sawmill, watching TV - is powered by their solar panels (with a small backup generator for those cloudy weeks in the winter).
Joe Trumpey says fire is a considerable risk before you seal up the straw walls with adobe.
“When you’re building the building all the open straw is a huge fire hazard at that point so we were really careful not to have any smokers around and no open fires. Once it’s coated with mud the fire proofing is really in place.”
You can hear Joe and Shelly talk about the experience of building with straw.
- 1500 bales of straw
- the 18-inch thick walls are insulated with the straw, plastered on either side with adobe mud - giving the Trumpeys 2-3 times the insulation value of a conventional home
- 50 tons of field stones, dug from their own farmland
- 7 years of planning, 2.5 years in the making
- Cost: about $75 per square foot - but the family did 99% of the labor themselves
Joe and Shelly went through all this because they wanted to prove it’s possible to have a comfortable home with a small impact. Joe's a professor at the University of Michigan and Shelly is a 3rd grade teacher.
“I think it’s a great example for my students and for my children, in terms of being respectful to nature and living in this earth.”