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Ill Huff And Ill Puff

 Posted by on August 7, 2011
Aug 072011

Going green sometimes means going back to the roots.

Kansas settlers used straw and mud to build their homes.

Today, straw and mud are making a comeback of sorts.

Rural Jefferson County is the home to over a dozen straw-bale buildings, everything from homes to workshops.

It is the need for a workshop that led one farmer to bring a new twist to an old-fashioned barn-raising.

Phil Holman-Hebert said he had so many people asking him about his straw-bale home that it gave him an idea how to meet his need for a new work shed and all the inquires, a week-long workshop.

Seven people signed-up.

"Part of our focus here is actually to teach techniques that should theoretically be legitimate, viable commercial quality techniques," said Holman-Hebert.

It was that technique that brought Jim Brabeck to Oskaloosa from Olathe, Kansas.

"I've been interested in alternative building and straw-bale building for a few years," said Brabeck. "It was exciting for me to know that this was in the area."

Brabeck teaches middle school science in the DeSoto School District and plans to incorporate what he learns this week into his class. He wants to use his new-found skills at home too.

"I'm going to try using this process with an addition on my home if I can," said Brabeck. "If I can overcome a few of the obstacles of codes and things like that."

Breaking through the misconceptions may be difficult.

Holman-Hebert said that if the bales are properly sealed and plastered over, you won't have to worry about rot or fire.

He did say upfront cost is comparable to standard wood construction, usually within 10 percent of each other but over the long-run straw bale construction is the way to go.

Traditional construction produces an average of R-19 insulation rating and straw bales can reach an R-60 rating.