East Bay Hybrid Straw Bale


In the tradition of an Amish Barn Raising, Arkin Tilt led the Jennings family, friends and neighbors in a Straw Bale-Raising at their new home in Martinez, California. The project features the ‘Hybrid Straw Bale’ method, used here for the second time, placing bales on-end between 2x6 wood framing.  CASBA workshop instructor and architect Bob Theis worked all day long and tested out an alternate method of holding the bales in place.  Builders Ramon Penas and Fady Zawde of Z and P Constructors were on hand to assist and modify framing on occasion to keep the work moving.  ATA Project Manager Bec Evans and her boyfriend Rob Merk helped, and over the course of a full day approximately 120 3-string bales of rice straw were shaped and placed as insulation in the walls of the 2,264 sf home.  The straw provides ample insulation (over R-30) plus thermal mass, helping to keep the home cool in summer, and warm in winter, and moderating daily temperature swings (it takes 12 hours to transfer heat to the center of the bales).  The interior finish will be a cement-lime plaster finish.  This modern farmhouse is, we think, a fitting reconstruction on the site of John Muir’s in-law’s, Dr. John T. and Louisiana Strentzel’s original farmstead, the home where John Muir and Louie Strentzel Muir lived briefly before moving to her parents home in Martinez proper, now site of the John Muir National Historic Site.