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No. 64, Summer 2014

Jules Ferry Residence – Straw Bale Panels

By Jeff RuppertJuly 3, 2014December 31st, 2021No Comments
Jules Ferry Residence Illustration (Courtesy of Le Toit Vosgien)LE TOIT VOSGIEN

Jules Ferry Residence Illustration (Courtesy of Le Toit Vosgien)

By Jeff Ruppert

The Jules Ferry Residence is an urban housing development in Saint-Die-des-Vosges, France that incorporates pre-fabricated straw bale walls and many other highly sustainable features. The project is a comprehensive approach to sustainable urban lifestyles through conscious planning and design. The buildings themselves are carbon positive and energy net-zero, supplying high-density living space at a huge reduction in operating costs, compared to other housing choices in the surrounding city.

Jules Ferry is built on a 2,500 m2 (0.62 acres) site of a former school playground. It is tightly integrated with the existing urban fabric of Saint-Die-des-Vosges. There are 19 units in Building A, and seven units in Building B offering both T3 (76 m2 or 760 sf) and T4 (90 m2 or 900 sf) sized units. Each building is designed around a central “sheath” that houses all of the mechanical fluid systems (heating, hot water and air exchange).

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Jules Ferry Site Plan (Courtesy of Le Toit Vosgien)

Jules Ferry Site Plan (Courtesy of Le Toit Vosgien)

A bioclimatic design approach brings full solar gain to each unit, which provides 30% of total heating requirements.  Access to each unit is provided from a protected corridor, leaving both the North and South facades largely open to the outdoors. The South facades have balconies that are sized to allow direct solar radiation in during the winter while shading in the summer.

Efficiency was built in to every part of the buildings, including how they were constructed. The building envelope is homogenous and comprised of both wood and pre-fabricated straw bale panels. The walls are twice as tight as a standard level Passivhaus. This type of panel construction ensures 40cm of insulation around the entire building that is comprised of 100% natural fibers of wood and straw, which provides natural hygro-dynamic control. The panels are exposed to the interior, architecturally expressing themselves as part of the finish.

Typical Floor Plan (Courtesy of Le Toit Vosgien)

Typical Floor Plan (Courtesy of Le Toit Vosgien)

With a combination of the modular panels and walls, construction sequencing was dramatically accelerated. This video illustrates how it was accomplished.

The straw panels were designed to be simple and economical. Each panel is made of a wood box filled with five bales of straw. Each box being a sealed assembly, there was no need for the application of render. The amount of straw used on the project was grown on approximately 10 hectares of land and will be renewed in one year. The panels were fabricated off-site and delivered as needed.

Through the use of bio-sourced materials the project has sequestered 1000 tons of CO2. In comparison, the same building constructed of concrete and polystyrene would use 600 tons of CO2 embodied in the materials and process.

Some of the benefits of this type of construction are:

  • Seismic Behavior – Wood is light, meaning that seismic forces are less than for a more massive structure. Shear walls are embodied in the panel construction.
  • Fire Resistance – During a fire, the solid wood panels and large beams carbonize on their surface protecting the inner core, retaining structural integrity. The straw, in the absence of much oxygen within the boxes will char slowly and offer thermal resistance to adjacent spaces.
    Bale Panel Construction (Courtesy of Le Toit Vosgien)

    Bale Panel Construction (Courtesy of Le Toit Vosgien)

  • Construction is fast, clean and healthy – Prefabrication and allows for a cleaner, faster process. The use of bio-based materials greatly reduces health risks for workers and residents.

Estimated costs to live in one of the T4 apartments is as follows:

  • Heating 3€ / month
  • Hot water 2€ / month
  • Ventilation 2€ / month
  • Maintenance 4€ / month

This is approximately 11€ per month or 132€ per year! (Excluding personal electrical ranging from 200 to 500€ per year, depending on the variety of uses of tenants).

Jules Ferry Residence was inaugurated on January 10, 2014.

Project Participants

6 rue breuil
88100 Saint-Dié-des-Vosges
Tél : 03 29 55 15 10
Mél :

Cladding Construction (Courtesy of Le Toit Vosgien)

Cladding Construction (Courtesy of Le Toit Vosgien)

18 rue A de St Exupéry
88100 Saint-Dié-des-Vosges
Tél : 03 29 56 86 78
Mél :

Thermal Planning and Eco-Building
1 rue du Kemberg
88580 Saulcy-sur-Meurthe

Wood Structure
1 rue du Marais
67800 Bischheim


  1. Dossier_presentation_Residence Jules Ferry.pdf
  2. Vincent Pierre of Terranergie

Further Information:


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