Straw Bale House in the City, Part 2: Building a Test Wall



The Straw Bale in the City 3-part series walks readers through the codes, costs, and construction of a straw-bale build on a non-rural property. Part 1 covers issues with building codes and managing expectations of city inspectors. Part 2 looks at straw bale design through the lens of a test wall, while in Part 3, readers learn the density and moisture considerations that can plague straw-bale construction without proper planning while also covering costs of this project.

I had mixed feelings after my conversation with the building inspector. As I worked on our current job sites for the next few days, I continued to make phone calls and send emails to various engineering companies, in search of a company that was comfortable being the third party inspector on a straw bale house project. Not one of the companies returned my call or email.

I reached out to the building inspector to let him know that I was not yet successful to get an engineering company to return my calls or emails and he said, “Well, the building permit is here and ready for you to pick up when you find a place to help you out.” I informed the developer of this and she asked, “Well, did you pick up the building permit?” To which I replied, “No, it’s a waste of money to go pick it up without having an engineer, we need a plan B.”

The developer wanted to further discuss with the building inspector his requirements for inspections, as to make sure there was not an oversight.  She found out for herself that the inspection department has the right to require the third party inspections. Furthermore, she was able to call out the inspection department on their requirement that the engineers be licensed in straw bale inspections, which to her knowledge did not exist. Yes, this would make it impossible to carry on with such a project, as there is not a single engineer or inspector that exists which would comply with the requirements of the inspector.

I started to think about past projects and how many times, those projects became extremely difficult because I would get a thought in my head that we could succeed no matter what. Time and time again, I would find myself saying, “How did I get myself into this?” I couldn’t take that path again, so I started to reflect about what options I had as the builder.

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