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  • The University of Utah

    College of Architecture + Planning

    375 S. 1530 E., Rm. 332 Arch

    SLC, UT 84112

  • (801) 585-5354

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    el sombrero straw bale work begins

    The straw bale component of the home (the bedrooms) has finally been taking shape. None of the straw bale walls are load-bearing which greatly simplifies the process. To see the floor plan which identifies these thick walls in relation to the overall layout, click here. The past session was spent framing the curb rails (sills) and box beams at all vertical corners, window and door jambs as well as stacking bales. Diverting from the traditional top plate, which can also be framed similarly to the vertical box beams, we have chosen to incorporate the 7′-0″ high band of cedar, aka ‘the datum’, as our top plate framing. This installation will happen in the beginning of the next session so it will be absent from the following photos. 

    curb rail and vertical box beam framing

    The corner box beams assist with keeping walls plumb during stacking and allow for a clean 90 degree corner plaster detail.

    curb rail framing detail with pea gravel at void

    The curb rails (sills) raise the bales off of the floor surface to prevent moisture from entering at the base. We have chosen a pea gravel infill between the curb rails since it was readily available and should assist with any drainage. Rigid insulation is also commonly used to fill this void.

    first course of bales at north wall

    In order to provide nailers for our j-bead plaster stop detail, blocking was installed between each bale of the first course at all walls. For a detail at the base of the exterior straw bale wall, click here

    felt paper moisture protection at exterior walls

    Due to the potential for snow build-up, felt paper was installed continuous from the top of the first course down to, and over, the top of the foundation wall.

    detail of window buck framing (sill seen at top of photo) and felt paper at first course

    a very happy and victorious looking brett

    completed south and east walls (and a chilly-looking brett)

    Prior to beginning plaster work in the next session a series of steps need to happen including felt paper and metal lath at all exposed wood to be plastered, j-bead plaster stop at the top and bottom of the walls and of course, the top plate/datum installation which will tie the whole system together. Check back for the next session’s progress!