Straw bale house slated for McCrory Gardens will host classes, research

Julie Frank

Julie Frank

The South Dakota wind will huff and puff, but still won’t be able to blow down SDSU’s straw bale house.

One of the newest editions to campus will be a straw bale house in McCrory Gardens.

“It gives SDSU a chance to do two unique things, investigate alternative building materials … and research,” said Gary Lemme, dean of the College of Agriculture and Biological Sciences. “It’s a great learning experience with a little bit of teaching, little bit of learning and a little bit of public outreach.”

The project will cost $17,800, reports the Board of Regents’ Web site. It will provide “research on the use of under-utilized, renewable agriculture materials for construction.”

The straw bale house will be 900 square feet, according to Dean Isham, the project’s principle investigator and an interior design professor. The house will also have a living roof, made up of plants and vegetation. The walls will be stacked straw bales covered in stucco both inside and out.

Building the house out of straw has many benefits, says Isham, who has also built straw bale houses with Red Feather Development Group, an organization that builds homes for Native Americans.

For starters, straw bale buildings are super-insulated and they can reduce energy use by 50 to 70 percent. Straw is also a rapidly renewable resource. Straw bale buildings are very sturdy and fire resistant. The living roof will reduce rain runoff by soaking up water. Plus, they are simple to build.

The straw bale house will be built in McCrory Gardens. It will provide the Gardens a prominent feature that can be used in all weather conditions, said Lemme. It will fulfill the need for an educational facility at the Gardens.

The house will serve as a classroom lab for horticulture students, public education with the extension service, and a visitor center.

“It’s a fun project at the university that brings together departments and the community,” said Lemme. The project calls for the interior design, construction management, horticulture, and landscape design departments to work together.

Construction will begin in August. SDSU will offer a summer class which will require students to participate in the building process. If all goes well, the building will take two weeks to construct and be available in fall 2007.

#1.883763:1024576750.jpg:strawhouse5.jpg:A straw house nears completion in this courtesy photo.:#1.883762:7464286.jpg:strawhouse4.jpg:The corner-stone bale is placed a straw house much like the one planned for SDSU.:#1.883761:1820093631.jpg:strawhouse2gray.jpg:Workers start building the walls of a straw house.: