City Sites

City builders must consider issues of lot size and availability, local zoning and building restrictions, neighborhood quality, availability of services, proximity to employment and schools, and transportation networks. Don't forget to research the city's development plan to see whether or not your prospective neighborhood is slated for major zoning changes. Talk to people who live in the area and find out what they have to say.

If the lot you are considering has been empty for a long time, find out how it has been used in the past. Be suspicious of former industrial sites or sites that have been used for gas stations or other polluting businesses. Paying for a soil analysis is a good idea if you harbor any suspicions or concerns. Don't forget to consider noise and light pollution. Excessive shading of your site by other buildings, proximity to highwattage street lights, signage or factory lighting, and car headlights can become constant irritants for urban dwellers.

To date, straw bale homes have been idealized in rural settings. Straw bale construction, however, works well as urban housing. The remarkable sound-proofing nature of thick bale walls can significantly lower the amount of ambient noise in your home, making it a more relaxing environment. By virtually eliminating noise transfer, straw bale dividing walls can remove a major disadvantage of multi-unit structures. Furthermore, bale construction allows for design adaptations to surrounding home styles without requiring higher expenditures for conventional materials.

While the ideals of clean, environmental living that are identified with straw bale homes might seem incongruous in urban settings, urban living offers us many opportunities to lower our personal environmental impact. Using bicycles and public transportation make environmental contributions as valuable as building with bales.


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6.2a - b: This type of hand-drawn floor plan shows all the main features of the space. Plans for additions to be constructed later should be thought through at this point, allowing a small initial structure to grow smartly into something more spacious.

Suburban Sites

If an urban site does not appeal to you, you may want to build in the suburbs. Suburban sites offer builders more opportunity to take advantage of passive solar gain than do many urban sites. Exterior appearance is often highly regulated in suburban neighborhoods. Fortunately, straw bale designs can easily be made to blend in with dominant architectural styles, allowing builders to retain maximum efficiency without resorting to conventional building practices.

In general, suburban sites represent the most environmentally unfriendly option for building. Due to the lack of local markets,infrequent public transportation, and general "isolation" of many suburban communities, residents are often forced to use automobiles when they go out, creating environmental impacts that can negate any advantages offered by building with bales.

6.3: This large straw bale structure is in the midst of one of Canada's most densely populated area.

Town Sites

Small towns can offer a balanced compromise between urban and rural choices. Prices for town lots can be very reasonable and edge-of-town lots can be quiet and very rural in feeling. There are likely to be fewer appearance restrictions in smaller towns. Environmentally, town living can cut down on automobile use.

Country Sites

Rural living and straw bale homes seem well suited to one another. Rural sites have many advantages. Under proper conditions a builder can harvest both straw and lumber from his or her own property. Code restrictions can be less imposing — or possibly nonexistent — in rural areas. Be careful not to jump into rural life without adequate forethought, especially if you are a long-time urban dweller. While rural life can be quiet, beautiful, and inspiring, it also requires adaptations in lifestyle. From an environmental perspective,rural homes are often the most energy-intensive dwellings. Automobiles must be used frequently, fuel sources need to be transported long distances, and road construction and maintenance consume vast amounts of energy. If you are committed to lowering your environmental impact, think carefully about how you plan on living after you've built your straw bale home in the country.

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