News
News Home
Quick Bites
Exploradio
News Archive
News Channel
Special Features
NPR
nowplaying
On AirNewsClassical
Loading...
  
School Closings
WKSU Support
Funding for WKSU is made possible in part through support from the following businesses and organizations.

Knight Foundation

Meaden & Moore

Akron Children's Hospital


For more information on how your company or organization can support WKSU, download the WKSU Media Kit.

(WKSU Media Kit PDF icon )


Donate Your Vehicle to WKSU

Programs Schedule Make A Pledge Member BenefitsFAQ/HelpContact Us
Environment


Staying warm with a roll in the straw
First-of-its-kind house near downtown Akron is well insulated by straw bales
by WKSU's KABIR BHATIA


Reporter
Kabir Bhatia
 
Patricia Maher's home at 181 N. Maple St. has numerous eco-friendly touches
Courtesy of K. Bhatia
Download (WKSU Only)
In The Region:
Building a new house means making decisions:  floor plans, kitchen cabinets, bathroom fixtures and, for Patricia Maher, mud and straw.  WKSU’s Kabir Bhatia has this report on a first-of-its-kind house near downtown Akron.
Straw bale house

Other options:
Windows Media / MP3 Download (2:50)


(Click image for larger view.)

From the outside, the house at 181 North Maple Street looks like an ornate, cedar-sided cottage. But a closer look reveals eco-friendly touches. A metal roof. A semi-enclosed balcony that doubles as a sleeping porch. Small, energy-efficient windows. And inside the walls… 350 bales of straw. 

“Child: This is like a farm in here.
Patricia: Isn’t it? That’s exactly what I said when I walked in, ‘It smells like a farm’.
Calvin: Just throw one right up in there.”

Using straw as a building material – and as insulation – is a technique that’s making a comeback as part of the green movement. When homeopath and East-Coast-transplant Patricia Maher decided to build her first home, she spent five years researching and planning. 

“At this point in my life, am I gonna talk about being environmentally conscious, or am I gonna walk the walk? If we care about changing some of our practices, in regard to environmental sustainability, it starts with how we live our lives. What really has helped is that the City of Akron has a real commitment to redeveloping this neighborhood and to supporting green-building initiatives.”

The most prominent of those initiatives, in Maher’s home, is the insulation. It’s a combination of layers of plastic, shredded newspaper and straw. And it’s about 60 percent more efficient than conventional insulation.

“Straw bales are gonna be stacked along these walls. They’re gonna be tied off and then we’re gonna stuff a mixture of straw and clay in all the spaces and crevices and then we’re gonna slap on a couple of thick coats of earth plaster made out of clay sand, straw and water.”

According to the builder, Calvin Smith, the house is unusual even by straw-bale-house standards.

“We have a straw-bale house on a basement. Usually they’re pole-building-type construction, or post and beam. Straw laid in between. Earth plaster on both sides. And that’s the house. Joe come up with the concept, I thought it was wonderful. And we did it, and Pat paid for it. (laughs)”

The Joe he’s referring to is Kent State architecture professor Joe Ferut, who designed the house. He says this is the first time traditional construction has been infused with straw: straw bales take the place of fiberglass insulation, and earth-plaster replaces dry wall.

“With the way we’ve designed this now is to basically have that standard exterior wood stud wall, and then we placed the bales up against it so the work is done on the inside. It’s a much more controlled environment. It’s sort of the best of both worlds.”

The numbers haven’t been crunched yet, but Ferut and Maher estimate a minute cost difference between this house, and an identical model with conventional construction. And Patricia’s heating bills should be about three-hundred dollars… a year.

Land in the North Akron neighborhood is going for a dollar per square foot. That was low enough to entice the construction of a matched straw bale house next door… for Patricia’s partner, Rebecca Johnson.

Anyone who wants to experience straw-bale-construction first-hand can visit the house this Saturday and Sunday from 8 to 4. There will be seminars about the project, and you can also help apply the earth plaster around the bales.
Listener Comments:

I intend to visit this house this weekend. i have been imagining up building a house like this for quite some time now. My goal is by the time I am 30 to have built my first house just like this. i am very excited that we are finally having a local green movement.


Posted by: Dan (Rittman oh) on February 14, 2012 10:02AM
Add Your Comment
Name:

Location:

E-mail: (not published, only used to contact you about your comment)


Comments:




 
Page Options

Print this page

E-Mail this page / Send mp3

Share on Facebook




Stories with Recent Comments

Ohio Supreme Court hears arguments on who should be paid minimum wage
Just a correction for your story: The trial court sided with the owners. The court of appeals sided with the sales reps.

Husted defends the use of "monopoly" in the wording of Issue 3
Jon, Give me a break. Why don't you concentrate your efforts on other issues to make Ohio a better place to live. Your comments about monopolizing the marijuana...

The Sierra Club is launching ads against Ohio's U.S. Sen. Rob Portman
“'I don’t know what the ad’s going to say. But I hope it’s truthful,' said Portman." This from a man who voted "no" last winter on a Senate resolution s...

Ohio Republicans protest the loss of Mt. McKinley
I believe the U.S.gov't. was overstepping its bounds by renaming a mountain that belongs to Alaska. How would we like it if Alaska (or any other state) telling ...

Pluto: University of Akron cuts baseball - should football be next?
remember when akron and Youngstown state were both in the ovc. As a Morehead State fan, made trips to both schools and had a wonderful experience. Played Akron ...

Ohio to aid young adults who age out of foster care
I think it's a great idea. I worked for an at risk high school and it was really sad to see the amount of kids who had no where to go because they had aged out...

Could University Circle developments ripple into East Cleveland?
Outsiders are so far off the beaten path and you all need to attend the meeting being held today 8/31/15 Cleveland Public Library, 1:00 PM. http://44112news.co...

ResponsibleOhio leader says the state is trying to set Issue 3 up for failure
Ohio suppose to believe that a group of investors were united under one cause to legalize marijuana.Once legal they all of sudden turn into 10 different compani...

Terry Pluto: U of A's new athletic director has the toughest job in town
It is a hard sell. The Students do not want to go to the football games and they do not want to pay for the program. They have a lot of student loan debt and t...

Akron considering the future of the B.F. Goodrich smokestacks
This BFGoodrich alumna says, "Thank you, Dave Lieberth!"

Copyright © 2015 WKSU Public Radio, All Rights Reserved.

 
In Partnership With:

NPR PRI Kent State University

listen in windows media format listen in realplayer format Car Talk Hosts: Tom & Ray Magliozzi Fresh Air Host: Terry Gross A Service of Kent State University 89.7 WKSU | NPR.Classical.Other smart stuff. NPR Senior Correspondent: Noah Adams Living on Earth Host: Steve Curwood 89.7 WKSU | NPR.Classical.Other smart stuff. A Service of Kent State University