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Straw-bale Codes, Testing, Research

By Joyce CoppingerJanuary 1, 2022May 11th, 2022No Comments
compiled by Joyce Coppinger, Andre de Bouter, Lars Keller, Chris Magwood, Mark Piepkorn and others.
An update on testing, research and codes appears in TLS#53/Spring 2006
California Straw Building Association (CASBA), PO Box 1293, Angels Camp, CA 95222-1293; 209-785-7077
The California Straw Bale Code is part of state statutes and can be downloaded from the CASBA site – Click on SB332 / HS18944 Revised California Guidelines for Straw Bale Structures.
The Building OfficialÕs Guide to Straw-bale Construction published by the California Straw Building Association (CASBA).  Edited by Kelly Lerner and Pamela Wadsworth Goode (see review, TLS#32). CASBA
Includes ASTM E72 Compression Test of Plastered Straw-Bale Walls by Matt Fitzgerald Grandsaert, 1999, University of Colorado at Boulder, sponsored by StrawCrafters and the California Straw Building Association. ASTM E72 80 Compressive, Transverse and Racking Tests of Load-Bearing Walls conducted under the direction of John Carrick BE, the New South Wales Environmental Protection Agency and John Glassford at the Building Research Centre of the University of New South Wales, Australia, 1998. Straw Bale Bending and Cement Plaster/Straw Bale Bond Testing by Jonathan Boynton, 1999, California Polytechnical State University, San Luis Obispo. In-Plane Lateral Loading of a Stuccoed Straw-Bale Wall by Nathan White and Clint Iwanicha, 1997, California Polytechnic State University, San Luis Obispo. Straw Bale Vault Test designed by David Mar, structural engineer, and Skillful Means Architecture and Construction; conducted by Bill Rothacher and Doug Stark of Consolidated Engineering Laboratories (CEL), 1998, Berkeley, California. Compressive and Lateral Loading of Straw-Bale Walls by Ghailene Bou-Ali, 1993, University of Arizona.Thermal and Mechanical Properties of Straw Bales as They Relate to a Straw House, conducted by the Canadian Society of Agricultural Engineering, 1993, Halifax, Nova Scotia, Canada. Straw-Bale Construction Moisture Research, by Joanna Karl, Lis Perlman and Bill Kownacki, 1995,  Portland Community College. E-119 Small Scale Fire Test, by SHB AGRA, 1993, New Mexico.Thermal Performance of Straw Bale Walls (a summary and discussion of several different thermal performance tests),  by Nehemiah Stone and Tav Cummins, 1999, California Energy Commission.
CMHC Testing Reports The Canada Mortgage and Housing Corporation (CMHC), a government agency involved in social housing, mortgage insurance, research and advocacy on housing issues. Ste 1000, 700 Montreal Road, Ottawa ON K1A 0P7; 800.668.2642 (or outside Canada, 613.748.2003), fax 613.748.2016
Includes: Developing and Proof-Testing the Prestressed Nebraska Method for Improved Production of Bale Fibre Housing by Fibrehouse Limited with Scanada Consultants Limited, 1995. Strawbale Moisture Monitoring Report, by Rob Jolly, 2000. Moisture Properties of Plaster and Stucco for Strawbale Buildings, by John Straube, 1999, University of Waterloo. Pilot Study of Moisture Control in Stuccoed Straw Bale Walls, by Bob Platts, 1997. Other tests available from CMHC; additional studies appear in Issue TLS#41.
Development Center for Appropriate Technologies – DCAT, PO Box 27513, Tucson AZ 85726-7513; 502.624.6628 <>  Downloadable codes and testing documents include:
Straw Bale Testing
ASTM E-119 Small Scale Fire Test (New Mexico); ASTM E84-98 Surface Burning Characteristics report
Alternative Material Codes including strawbale and earth
Austin Straw Bale Code; Boulder Straw Bale Code; California Straw Bale Code
Tucson/Pima County SB Code; Tucson/Pima County Earthen Code
Ecological Building Network. EBNet
11 Mark Dr., San Rafael CA 94903  USA, 415.987.7271, Bruce E King, Executive Director bruce@ educates the building community, and makes useful information about environmentally-friendly building materials readily available to all. This web site contains an extensive list of tests (fire, moisture, structural) can be downloaded. Conference CD-ROM of the proceedings from the 2001 EBNet Conference (see review TLS#37).  Available from EBNet  Includes: Straw-Bale Shear Wall Lateral Load Test by Jason Nichols and Stan Raap, 2000, California Polytechnic State University, San Luis Obispo, Architectural Engineering Dept. For the Land of Camels: A Straw Bale Test Wall for Seventeen Foot High Ceiling Structures in the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia by Chris Stafford, Christopher Stafford Architects, Inc., Port Townsend, Washington. A Pilot Study Examining the Strength, Compressibility and Serviceability of Rendered Straw Bale Walls for Two Storey Load Bearing Construction by Michael Faine and Dr. John Zhang, 2000, University of Western Sydney, Australia. Preliminary Report on the Out-of-plane Testing of an 8x8ft Straw Bale/PISE Wall Panel by David Arkin and Kevin Donahue, 2001, Mill Valley, California. Straw-Bale Construction: A Review of Testing & Lessons Learned To Date by Bruce King, 2001. A Status Report on the Greening of Building Codes and Standards by David Eisenberg, 2001. Alternative Building Materials and Systems Ð Understanding Technical Risk and Uncertainty by John Straube, 2001.
Additional Tests and Technical Reports are available at this site.
University of Manitoba, Department of Biosystems Engineering, University of Manitoba, Winnipeg, Manitoba, R3T 5V6, Canada; 204.474.6033
Design Dead Load of a Straw Bale Wall, by E. Arbour, 2000. Design Approach for Load-Bearing Strawbale Walls, K.J. Dick and M.G. Britton, 2002. Resistance to Shear in Stuccoed Straw Bale Walls, by Lisa Stepnuk, 2002.
Testing Information in French Language Click on Entrez and Tests Realise.
CISRO Bush Fire Tests. Australian testing of three types of plastered SB.
Community-Built Housing Solution: A Model Strawbale Home Design by David Riley and Sergio Palleroni, 1999.               
Earth Plaster Test Results by Odisea engineering
Evaluation of a Straw Bale Composite Wall by Edwin R. Schmeckpepper and Joe Allen, 1999. Contact Joe Allen, PE, Allen Engineering, 917-10th Street, Clarkson, WA 99403. Tests performed on an unusual light-gauge steel/straw bale wall system.
House of Straw: Straw Bale Building Comes of Age, US Department of Energy,  1995. Studies thermal performance and construction cost issues, with positive results.  www.eren.doe.gove/EE/strawhouse
Investigation of Environmental Impacts: Straw-Bale Construction by Ann V. Edminster, 1995. Contact Ann Edminster, 115 Angelita Ave, Pacifica, CA 94044, <>
Moisture in Straw Bale Housing – Nova Scotia 1998. S.H.E. Consultants,  Contact S.H.E. Consultants, RR#3, Comp. 308, Wolfville, Nova Scotia, Canada, 902.542.3518.  Blower door tests on several bale homes, and a refining of the term breathable walls.
Moisture Control in Strawbale Homes: Report to Ontario Building Code Commission, John Straube, 1999. How straw-bale walls handle moisture (see Defending a Load-Bearing House, pg 6, TLS#40). University of Waterloo, Building Engineering Group, Civil Engineering Department, , Waterloo, ON Canada, N2L 3G1, 519.888.4567, ext 2378.
ORNL Thermal resistance of SB Wall Panel Tests by Oak Ridge Natonal LaboratoryÕs SB Wall Testing,
Nebraska. McCook Straw Bale Building Code. Copy of ordinance passed 2002 available from Doyle Wineland, Building Inspector, City of McCook, 308.345.2022 Ext 232 <>
Nevada. Nevada State Legislature, Legislative Building, 401 South Carson Street, Rm 101, Carson City, NV 89710. Ref. Code mandate: AB171, Straw Bale Guidelines 1995 Intent:is  to ensure that local code jurisdictions in Nevada develop building codes that allow straw-bale construction.
New Zealand Standards, NZS 4297:1988. Engineering Design for Earth Buildings (Specific Design); NZS 4298:1998. Incl Amendment@1 2000 Materials and Workmanship for Earth Buildings; NZS 4299:1998. Incl Amendment31 1999 Earth Buildings not Requiring Specific Design. Contact Graeme North <>
Rice Hull ASTM tests of contact Paul Oliver, ESR International LLC, 519 W. Dejean St., POBox 250, Washington LA 70589, 337.447.4124,
Straw Bale Code Testing, Black Range Films 1996. Documents the Arizona compression and lateral loading tests (3-string bales), the 1993 Nova Scotia moisture testing, and the New Mexico lateral load and E-119 fire tests (2-string bales) with very positive results.
Straw Bale Exterior Pinning Report, Sustainability International,1998. Engineering results on a rebar-exterior-pinning system which gained approval from the Tucson/Pima County building department. Contact Bob Bolles  <>
Straw/Clay, Canadian Mortgage Housing CouncilÕs report Initial Material Characterization of  Straw Light Clay. Study of thermal, fire, moisture and structural properties of straw/clay.
Strength Testing of Stucco and Plaster Veneer Straw-Bale Walls, by D. Riley, G. MacRae, and J.C. Ramirez, 1998. Contact Professor David Riley, Department of Architectural Engineering, Pennsylvania State, 104 Engineering Unit A, University Park, PA 16802, 814-863-2079 <>
Thermal Resistivity of Straw Bales, Joe McCabeÕs MasterÕs Thesis.
Code Testing Video
Straw Bale Code Testing, Black Range Films 1996. Documents the Arizona compression and lateral loading tests (3-string bales), the 1993 Nova Scotia moisture testing, and the New Mexico lateral load and E-119 fire tests (2-string bales) with very positive results.
This list will be continuously updated in the Resource Section of the TLS web site. Please let us know if you have information to share about other codes, testing and research.

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