Strawbale on Shaky Ground

August 29, 2014  •  Leave a Comment

We built one of our first strawbale designs in the town of Napa, less than ten miles from the epicenter of last week's earthquake, which devastated dozens of buildings nearby. Since then we've built five other buildings within this quake zone, in Sonoma, Kenwood, Calistoga, Yountville and Rutherford, and reports are that they all came through well.

Strawbale, because of its stability and ductility, is a natural material to use in earthquake country--bales will absorb a lot of energy without breaking. Our first serious research into the seismic properties of bales came when designing the Studio in Joshua Tree for Lou Harrison.  

Working with Tipping + Mar Associates, we conducted tests of a bale wall assembly that showed great potential for strength and safety at low cost.  The principles of that system were very quickly adapted by Kelly Lerner for a school in China, and, after the devastating earthquakes in Pakistan, were adapted to those conditions by Darcey Donovan, and are being taught and built there by PAKSBAB, which stands for the Pakistan Straw Bale and Appropriante Building.  

This dramatic video of shake table testing at the University of Nevada puts a bale building through very high seismic loads, and shows the enormous energy of a typical large quake:

We are pleased that our work here on beautiful homes in California has contributed to the safety of thousands who live in dangerous seismic areas around the globe.

Outdoor patio
Home in Sonoma, 20 miles from the epicenter::
"Yay Strawbale!  Dear John,  I’m pleased to report that our house survived the earthquake with almost no damage. Thank you!



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