resident Esther Alvarez in her new addition at her home
with the main construction material consisting of straw
bales. She began focusing in 2005 on learning about this
type of construction and who could help her with it. (Frank
real house of straw
POMONA - Esther Alvarez loves cooking and wanted a bigger
kitchen for her West 11th Street home, but contractors told
her the remodeling project she wanted was out of her price
dream kitchen called for making it large enough to have a
center island and other conveniences. However, contractors
said it couldn't be done.
you can make it smaller" is what Alvarez remembers one
of them telling her.
she recalled a story her mother told her.
Mexico, Alvarez's grandfather once built two rooms out of
straw that were cool in the summer and warm in the winter.
he could do it, so could I," Alvarez recalled thinking.
was 10 years ago.
is now Pomona resident Esther Alvarez in her new addition
at her home with the main construction material consisting
of straw bales. She began focusing in 2005 on learning about
this type of construction and who could help her with it.
(Frank Perez/Correspondent) on her way to having the home
of her dreams including her roomy kitchen, a new dining room
and a larger living room - an unconventional addition that
will use straw bales as part of the construction project.
Alvarez began thinking of straw bale construction about 10
years ago it wasn't until 2005 that she began focusing on
learning about this alternative type of construction and who
could help her carry it out.
started doing the research on contractors and architects,"
a long search she found Pasadena-based designer Lisa Swan,
who had experience working on straw bale and other "green"
project involved some challenges, Swan said.
was an addition to an existing house, which is unusual. For
me it's a first," Swan said.
project is not a typical straw bale building, said Greg Griffith,
a Pomona building official.
a hybrid," he said.
reason is the project combines a conventional building with
a straw bale addition. The second reason is the straw bale
addition has a structural frame.
uses the straw bale for the insulating value and the frame
to comply with California seismic requirements," Griffith
addition has wood and steel posts so the structure will withstand
earthquakes, Swan said.
materials along with others will make the final product sturdy
and flexible in an earthquake, Swan said.
straw bales in construction is not a new concept. It is a
material that was readily available in the Midwest in the
late 18th century.
this is an old strategy that's seeing a resurgence,"
said Kyle D. Brown, director of the John T. Lyle Center for
Regenerative Studies at Cal Poly Pomona.
seen over the last five, six, seven years a definite increase
in the interest level," he said. "People have become
more aware of it."
bale "is a significantly better insulant than the common
insulating material," Brown said.
bale structures are also cost-effective because straw is relatively
inexpensive, Brown said.
has a long life and the plaster or other material used to
cover the straw contributes to that.
conventional construction projects walls are designed with
moisture or vapor barriers before they are covered over.
barriers are not used in straw bale construction "so
the walls are breathable," Swan said.
lack of barriers keeps the straw from collecting moisture
but should it become wet it can dry quickly minimizing the
growth of mold, she said.
encourage straw bale construction for people who have allergies
and respiratory conditions," Swan said.
familiar with straw bale construction say the fact straw is
tightly compacted is part of what gives it its strength and
it is also what makes it difficult to burn.
said she expects her home to be completed by the end of the
summer and is looking forward to it.
wanted a sustainable building, and straw baling is just the
best," Alvarez said.