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The Health Centre construction team at Straworks have made impressive strides lately and have the foundation set, shell up, and roof on, ready for the winter weather.  We asked Straworks President Deirdre McGahern for a little primer on some of the features of the new building.

Primer on Straw Bale Construction by Deirdre McGahern, Straworks Inc.

On a farm bales of straw are used for bedding or mulch, but on our job sites like ours, they are big bundles of golden insulation. Straw is a super insulator because each straw (and there are a lot of them in a bale) is a hollow tube that traps air and slows the transfer of heat.

Once stacked, trimmed, and prepped as part of a wall, we spread two thin layers of plaster right on the bales. The plaster is the finished surface on the interior and the exterior. It protects the straw from the elements, fire and pests, and it also stops air from moving through the wall and taking your hard-earned heat with it. Without plaster, a straw bale wall would not reach R-30 (R is a measure of resistance to heat flow, and R-30 is about double the performance of a typical insulated stud wall). You need a thin shell over a wool sweater to be warm on a windy day in the winter, right? Well plaster over bales is the same thing: thin shell over thick-fuzzy equals warm and cozy.

In Nebraska people live in straw bale houses that are over 100 years old. Around here, people are living in straw bale houses that are 30 years old. Ontario is home to almost 500 straw bale buildings and Camp Kawartha is home to 3 of them, with a fourth on the way.

Annually renewable, supports local farmers, non- toxic, natural and beautiful, there are many reasons to build with bales. Next time, in the December newsletter, we will go over how in our current context of climate change, there is even an imperative to do so. We are not just building a Health Centre…we are building a carbon sink! Stay tuned.

Straworks Inc. is a Peterborough based company that has been designing and building straw bale buildings since 2004.  They take pride in their work and have fun doing it, because when built properly, straw works.  Visit to learn more.