“You might have something here!” said Mike Schramm, director of the Bowie Parks and Grounds headquarters construction project, as he basked in the shade of a stack of straw bales towering twice the height of his head. Mike walked into the sunny side of the wall and into the oppressive August sun. It was a full twenty degrees cooler on the inside of the wall, and we hadn’t yet even put on the roof!
Straw bale walls take only a few hours to stack, but they take a full crew and several days to apply the lime and sand plaster which protects the walls and allows them to “breathe” out any moisture which gets into the walls. We imported an experienced plaster crew from Ohio who camped in nearby Maryland woods for the week of work. It was long hours, messy, and lots of fun.
Straw bale construction, made famous by the Three Little Pigs, is actually resistant to hurricanes and earthquakes, does not burn (because the bale compression eliminates oxygen), and insects and rodents think straw bale is way too much work. Straw bale walls are outstanding for both temperature and sound insulation; they use a local waste material (straw); and they are natural humidifiers and mold resistant. Not to mention the results are very attractive (think Tuscan villa).
The Bowie Parks and Grounds Building received a Silver certification from the US Greenbuilding Council. General Contractor was Pioneer Construction.