Ontario hosts international straw bale building conference

Ontario hosts international straw bale building conference

They came from Sri Lanka, China, New Zealand, the United States, England and across Canada. Last week close to 200 people attended the International Straw Bale Building Conference in Lakefield, Ontario.

Tina Therrien, secretary for the conference and a professional
builder, says that the selection of Ontario for the conference was partly based on its growing number of straw bale buildings. Over one hundred straw bale buildings have been constructed in the province since the mid-90s, including many homes and cottages as well as agricultural, industrial and commercial structures.

According to Therrien, the market for straw bale building continues to increase across the province. "An increasing number of bale buildings [are] being tackled both by professional builders and owner-builders," she says.

At the same time, there is still much education and promotion to be done here.

"Certain parts of the world, such as the U.S., have more straw bale buildings, due to the renaissance of the building method earlier than here," says Therrien. "In China, there are over 600 modest straw bale dwellings in small communities or villages."

She says that the need for continued education in the province is another reason the conference was held in Ontario. "The Ontario Straw Bale Building coalition, a non-profit information group formed to educate the public and promote straw bale building in Ontario, decided that it would be exciting to host the conference in Ontario, partly to feature local building techniques, and partly to continue to promote the exchange of information and ideas."

Building with blocks of compressed straw is an old construction method that has become new again. Since the early 1990s, it has slowly gained momentum as a world-wide movement.

Hailed as low-cost and environment-friendly, the method involves stacking straw bales like over-sized concrete blocks and then plastering onto the straw on the inside and outside faces. According to the Ontario Straw Bale Building Coalition, straw bale walls have excellent fire ratings and could be used as fire walls in industrial buildings. The method is also promoted as a boost to the local farming economy.


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