Straw bale building offers an affordable, sustainable solution to materials like concrete. Sigi Koko of Down to Earth Design demonstrated straw bale building will work even in wet climates with the Zeljo Studio, a 300-square-foot cottage in Arlington, Virginia. Built with reclaimed and scavenged materials, the studio cost less than K to build.
The Zeljo Studio is comprised of a “timber frame structure, ” with straw bales providing insulation. Wood siding provides an elegant exterior and the interior is finished with clay plaster locally sourced with soil from the building site. The foundation was already in place. Atop the dormers is a green roof to absorb rainwater and help a loft remain cool in warm summer weather. Due to the straw insulation, the studio stays warm in the winter without needing much heat.
The owners of the studio found salvaged bathroom fixtures, kitchen cabinets, a kitchen sink, doors, and flooring for the loft. According to Koko, they obtained many of the materials for free. They even found new energy efficient windows that were “misordered” so were sold for a hefty discount.
Koko wrote in an article, “By far, the biggest concern with strawbale walls, as with most materials in a wet or humid climate, is moisture.” She designed the straw bale studio in humid Virginia to help show straw bale buildings are still viable in wet climates. By targeting areas where water can sneak in, like at the wall base, windows, or roof eaves, straw bale homes work in places heavily exposed to moisture. Koko wrote an article outlining what steps home owners can take to protect their straw bale homes that can be read in detail here.