A Temecula local wants other members of the community to know the benefits of a novel type of construction.
Pavlina Kubicek, her husband and her daughter live in a home in Temecula Wine Country that they built using a construction material that most people probably haven’t heard of – straw bale.
Utilizing bales of straw, which would ordinarily be discarded by farmers as a waste product, for insulation, is a relatively new practice in modern construction, although straw was commonly used in the United States during the 19th century, and straw bale has in fact been used in buildings for centuries.
Kubicek said she and her husband decided to use the material in their Wine Country home, which was completed earlier this year, because of its “green” characteristics – it’s lower in toxicity than many more common building materials, and it provides great insulation.
The insulative benefits of straw bale mean that utility costs are much lower for the Kubiceks.
“Our electric bill is around $80,” Kubicek said. “And we have everything electric; there is no (gas) in the house.”
There’s also another benefit to straw bale construction – straw can be more fire-resistant, an important factor in wildfire-prone Southern California.
“When we applied for the permits two years ago in December,” Kubicek said, “The fires were going on around Los Angeles and Malibu and they actually told me ‘We are happy you are building a straw bale house, because they are more fire-resistant.’”
Construction on the four-bedroom, 2,200-square-foot home took a little less than a year, Kubicek said. The bales themselves were stacked to form the home’s walls in about a week, a process that was helped along by friends who helped out.
“We had, I think, 31 volunteers putting the bales in the wall in one week, so that saved a lot of money and time,” Kubicek said.
Some disadvantages to straw bale construction include the fact that straw can rot if exposed to too much moisture and the amount of space the bales take up, forcing thick walls that can take away square footage. But excessive moisture isn’t much of a problem in Southern California, and Kubicek is satisfied with the size of her home.
“We could have built it bigger, but why?” she said. “People have these big houses, but they only live in the kitchen, living room and bedroom.”
And, she says, beyond the economic and environmental benefits, Kubicek said she and her family just love the appearance of their new home. The bales give the plaster-finished walls a natural, rounded look.
“What we love about it is the aesthetic look about it – that the walls are not actually straight, because there’s not many things that are straight in nature,” she said.
Will Fritz can be reached by email at firstname.lastname@example.org.