Why Straw Bale Is A Fantastic Green Building Material

What makes a Building Material Green?

by Bridget Puszka, BP Architects


What are green building materials?

Another description of green building materials would be sustainable building materials.  Green building materials are available for local and renewable materials.  Building materials made from clay, sand and stone are green building materials.  So rammed earth is a green building material.  Timbercrete is another example of green building materials as is mud brick.  Buildings made from grass, straw, wood and bamboo.  Strawbale houses and bamboo floors are examples of green building materials in use.


The following lists some green building materials:


  • Strawbale bale
  • Timbercrete
  • Bamboo
  • Wood
  • Rammed earth
  • Mudbrick
  • Hempcrete
  • Sheep’s wool insulation


Green building materials are becoming more popular as people realize the benefit.  How they can help make your home a comfortable and energy-efficient home.



what is the benefit of using green building materials?

Build your home from green building materials; you reduced the environmental impact.  Green building materials can help make your house energy efficient. You end up making it a comfortable home.  You can have a home that is beautiful, comfortable and energy-efficient.  And at the same time eco-friendly.


For example, rammed earth makes a beautiful feature wall inside a home.  Because this is a heavyweight material, therefore it will absorb heat from the indoor air in summer. You are keeping your home cooler in the hot summer months.  In winter, it will store heat from either the direct winter sunlight or from a heat source.  When the air temperatures drop or if the day is cold.  The heat stored in this rammed earth wall will release it into the air. You are keeping your home warm inside during the cold winter months.


So heavyweight materials are one part of keeping a home comfortable.  For both winter and summer.  Along with other aspects of energy-efficient building and passive solar design.  Such as designing for the winter’s sun to keep your living areas warm.  And high levels of insulation to keep the heat out in summer and the warmth in during winter.



what building materials are eco-friendly?

Green building materials are local and renewable.  What is the difference between green building materials and eco-friendly building materials?  Are they the same?  Well, to some degree, yes.  To a list of eco-friendly building materials, along with green building materials.  You would add recycled building materials.  Such as recycled steel.  And building materials that use waste products.

And also building materials that don’t use a lot of energy in manufacturing.  Energy used in the production of building material and transportation.  This energy is the embodied energy of the building material.

list of eco-friendly building materials

So along with the list of green building materials above, you would add the following:

  • Recycled materials such as recycled steel, recycled plastics and recycled glass
  • Products that use cork such as Comcork
  • Green concrete.  This concrete uses recycled concrete and waste products.  This aggregate and additives could be waste by-products such as fly ash or slag.  Concrete that uses recycled concrete aggregates
  • Low embodied energy building materials.  Wood is an example of low embodied energy building material.  Other building materials with low embodied energy include bricks and stone.  And timbercrete


So eco-friendly homes often associate with the Earthship style of homes.  These are passive solar earth shelters used with natural and eco-friendly materials. They are using whatever material is at hand.  Such as earth-packed tyres.


There are many different green building materials and eco-friendly building materials.  And an eco-friendly house can use any of these different building materials.


What does the embodied energy of a building material mean?


The Embodied energy is the amount of energy used in the use of that building material.  Embodied energy is measurable.  It provides you with a measure of the power used in producing and delivering that material.

So if you want to have an eco-friendly home, you would choose materials with low embodied energy.  Aluminium has a high embodied energy.  Concrete has a high embodied energy as it uses a lot of energy to get the raw materials.  Such as the energy consumed in quarrying for sand and other aggregates.  It causes environmental destruction and pollution.

If you wanted to use low embodied energy building materials in your eco-friendly home, you would also consider how much of a high embodied energy building material you use in the house.  Do you only use a small amount of that building material?  The benefits that come from using that material.  Does it improve your home’s energy building efficiency?  Will it help to keep your energy bills low and your household running costs down?  Is it a low maintenance building material?  Will it mean less energy used to maintain that material?  What happens at the end of the life of your home?  Can you recycle the building material?  Is it removable for reuse?  You would consider the full life cycle from the cradle-to-grave embodied energy of a house.


What is the best building material to build your house?


How do you choose the best building material to build your home?


So what is the best building material to build your house?  There are many factors to consider.  You would think about how you want your home to look at each different building material that will create a different look.  The aesthetic of your home and the way your home looks.

The durability of the material is essential.  The amount of maintenance required and how this will impact you.  And how does the building materials help make your home energy efficient and comfortable?

There are many things to consider when choosing the building material for your home.  The structure and the strength of the building material or if it is fire resistant.  Is it the right material to use if termites are an issue?  You decide if the building material is fit for the purpose.  So you avoid situations in your home like mould and rot.  These are all considerations to help you determine the best building material to build your home.


Straw Bale House designed by BP Architects featured in Environ Magazine

Download the Environ Feature Article on Straw Bale buildings.  Read ‘Backing the green horse’ by Warren McLaren.  Learn more about the Mirboo Straw Bale Home designed by BP Architects.  If you would like to know how we help our Clients with their architect house designs contact Bridget at BP Architects.