BUILDING 1452 was no small task. The 1700 sq. ft. building was constructed as 2 complete timber frames before any bales were even touched. The massive 33′ 6″x8″ roof timbers were installed on top of the basic frame. After the entire frame was built and secured we started filling in the straw bale walls. We used wheat straw packed into 3 string bails weighing between 90-100 lbs. each. The bales were pinned together using bamboo rods every course. The exterior was treated with several coats of lime plaster and finished with lap siding.

The living roof was achieved by using 2×6 tongue and groove covered by a 1/2″ layer of rigid insulation. The waterproof membrane was installed next followed by a layer of straw bales, drainage rock and 9″ of soil. Once the building was secure and the exterior door was installed, the wood stove went in. Since the bale walls have an exceptional insulating value, our one wood stove is enough to heat the entire studio.

 

 

The interior walls were treated with either lime plaster for the needed reflective surfaces or gypsum for the rooms that the straw needed to act as an absorber. Straw bales have a natural tendency to absorb sound. As such, the live room has lime plaster on the walls to give the room a natural stone reflecting surface. Since the lime plaster is only 1″ thick, it allows bass frequencies to pass through and be absorbed by the straw. This gives the room a nice sound character with an average reverb time of 1.3ms. The inconsistency of the surface of the straw bales enables the lime plaster to act as a good difuser as well.

 

 

The design and acoustical engineering were slightly different due to the straw bale construction. As far as the design layout goes, 1452 has a 25′ x 30′ live room, 2 isolation rooms (one live and one dead), a 20′ x 30′ control room, mud room, office and a bathroom. Design characteristics were similar to a standard studio construction (optimum dimensions to reduce room modes, no parallel walls ect.) with one exception; the elimination of a double walled system for sound isolation purposes. When straw bales are used for interior walls, sound isolation levels are within an acceptable range.

 

 

This gallery below illustrates our construction process. Please feel free to contact me if you have any question about the building process. I’d be happy to share my knowledge of straw bale building or timber framing with anyone that’s interested.

A note of thanks to the many family and friends who helped out along the way. A special note of appreciation to: Caryl Gentile, Linda Barrows, Roger Brewer, Chris Cleary and Johnny Z. You’re help and support was appreciated more than I could ever say! Thank you…

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