Colorado Strawbale House

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Location:

Berthoud, Colorado

Square Footage:

Conditioned Area: 800 S. F.
Carport Area: 380 S.F.

Construction Date:

Summer 2024

Description:

Here at F9 Productions, we really love what we do. Architecture is a fascinating field in many ways, but one thing that’s particularly intriguing about our profession is that it is often cyclical, meaning ideas often revive themselves in later generations. This cyclical nature allows architects to look to the past in order to inform the future of design.

In the case of the Colorado Strawbale House, a single-family residence, the building material is the ultimate revitalization that we are going to be discussing. And what is this historic building material that is finding its way into modern-era homes once more? You guessed it… Strawbale!

The client for this project previously built Earthships in the New Mexico dessert and if you are unfamiliar with Earthships then you are in for a treat. To provide a short description, an Earthship is a self-sustaining, off-grid autonomous building that is built with recycled materials such as tires and glass bottles. There’s obviously a whole lot more to unpack there, especially after mentioning those building materials, so if you really want to dive down the rabbit hole then it’s worth a google search and a few YouTube videos to really get in the know.

But with the spirit of the Earthships in mind, our client wanted to design a home with a few essential criteria at heart. Those criteria were:

  1. The home needs to be simple enough to build himself.
  2. The home needs to be energy-efficient and eco-conscious.
  3. The home needs to be self-sufficient.
  4. The home needs to incorporate strawbale.

And one simple move was made that makes each of these criteria attainable. That move was to build small. The United States has seen the average square footage for a single-family residence climb from approximately 900 SF in the 1940’s up to 2,500 SF in modern times. Strawbale on Sprague is dialing back this value more than just a bit, as the total square footage comes in at a mere 800 SF. That’s right, 800 SF.

Now let’s get to the strawbale. Strawbale has an insulative value of approximately R-2 per inch. With the average strawbale being 18” wide, our wall assembly comes in at a whopping R-36, which is even greater than the most recently prescribed energy standards. And while it seems counterintuitive, strawbale construction is actually fire-retardant, which is a critical feature on Colorado’s front range. Strawbales are also largely available, require less labor and fewer supplies, and have fantastic acoustic qualities, just to name a few additional benefits.

Within the conversation of self-reliance, gas fuel is provided via an on-site propane storage tank and water is provided by a 5,000 gallon on-site cistern rather than via a well or city water. Finally, solar panels provide most of the project’s electricity needs, which is pretty easy to do in a state that is renowned for offering over 300 days of sunshine per year. The only thing this house doesn’t do for itself is grow it’s own food… yet. A future south-facing greenhouse will be added at a later date, which will speak to the language of the Earthship even further.

If after reading this you’re also interested in taking the plunge into self-reliance, eco-consciousness, and alternative construction methods, then F9 Productions is excited to work alongside you and make your dreams a reality!