This house was designed to be built with straw panels, frames stuffed with straw. The panels can be constructed off-site with a small crew under controlled conditions. Windows and doors can be installed in the panels from the beginning, resulting in higher quality walls at a lower cost.
The panels can be pre-fabricated while the foundation is being built, ready to be erected at the earliest possible moment in the building schedule. Door and window openings can be framed and flashed before the panels are erected at the site.
Panels’ greatest efficiency comes in projects with paid labor, where construction scheduling is crucial and small crews can work efficiently and at a steady pace. The owner-builder on our project originally intended to build with a small paid crew but then participated in a bale workshop at a nearby house, and in his excitement decided to have a baleraising and plastering workshop for his own house!
The panels were built at the last minute before the workshop, ready for the workshop participants to stuff the first panel. The panels hadn’t been test-run and the original design had been weakened, so the participants ran head-on into difficulties. The panel sides bent when stuffed tight, and panels warped and bent when lifted.
The workshop and construction had a very tight schedule; crews and machinery were scheduled to erect the panels and an appointment had been made with the building inspector before plastering would begin. By the end of the first day there were concerns that the workshop schedule couldn’t be met, and so the workshop leader decided to put up the panels empty and stuff them in place. Although this was more work, participants remarked that the panel sections made the bale stacking easier, and the structural integrity of the panels was not compromised.
Panels are designed to eliminate hanging on ladders and bashing, a somewhat dangerous and certainly tiring operation—but at this workshop the joys of bale-bashing prevailed.
In the end, the stuffed panels were completed and the crew went on to the plastering…..