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Small Strawbale: Natural Homes, Projects & Designs Paperback – May 26, 2005


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Product Details

  • Paperback: 240 pages
  • Publisher: Gibbs Smith (May 26, 2005)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1586855158
  • ISBN-13: 978-1586855154
  • Product Dimensions: 8.7 x 0.8 x 8.5 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.8 pounds
  • Average Customer Review: 3.9 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (15 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #588,635 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews

From the Inside Flap

Strawbale structures are the tangible creations of simple dreams and modest pocketbooks. They represent a beauty that is born of simplicity and effort rather than complexity and capital--a beauty that resounds with the satisfaction enjoyed by those who take an active part in designing and crafting their own creations.

Overflowing with beautiful, vivid color photographs, detailed illustrations, and floor plans, Small Strawbale spotlights the personal stories of people who have created simple, economical, and beautiful structures out of natural materials.

A thorough guide to building with strawbale and other natural materials, this guide includes an eclectic sampling of houses, studios, meditation spaces, outbuildings, and landscape walls. Additional ideas include strawbale alcoves, bottle windows, built-in furniture, clay ovens, as well as design guidelines for small houses, gable roofs, lofts, shed roofs, porches, seasonal shading, and pantries.

Both a pragmatic constructions manual and a philosophical, artistic guidebook, Small Strawbale is an inspirational starting point for the strawbale dreamer and a great source of information for those who are ready to get baling.

Bill and Athena Swentzell Steen are the authors of Built by Hand: Vernacular Buildings around the World, The Straw Bale House, and The Beauty of Straw Bale Homes. They are heavily involved in their non-profit organization, The Canelo Project. Committed to developing and to education people about simple and sustainable ways of living, building, and growing food, the Steens regularly teach workshops on strawbale building and artistry with clay and lime. Through their work, they have developed close ties to Mexico where they have carried out a number of projects. They live in Canelo, a small community tucked away in the secluded oak woodlands of Arizona, seventy miles southeast of Tucson.

Wayne Bingham is an architect who assists owners and builders in planning, designing, and constructing strawbale homes. He served for ten years as the building program director for the state of Utah, and was instrumental in developing and building the AIA Habitat for Humanity house. He also served as president of AIA Salt Lake, chairperson of the Design for Life Workshops, chairperson of the AIA Committee on the Environment, and a member and chairperson of the Uniform Building Codes Commission. He is the recipient of four architectural design awards and a 1997 Governor's Award for Energy Efficiency in State Facilities. His work has been published in Architectural Digest, Popular Science, The Salt Lake Tribune, Intermountain Contractor, The Deseret News, Nikkei Architecture, Utah Holiday Magazine, and Utah Architect Magazine. Bill and his wife, Colleen, are currently building their own strawbale home in Teton Valley, Idaho.

About the Author

Bill and Athena Steen are the authors of Built by Hand, The Straw Bale House, and The Beauty of Straw Bale Houses. They are heavily involved in their non-profit organization, The Canelo Project. Committed to developing and educating others about simple and sustainable living, they regularly teach workshops on straw bale building and artistry with clay and lime. They live in Arizona



Wayne Bingham has worked as building program director for the state of Utah for ten years and has been in private architectural practice for twenty years. He was instrumental in developing and building the AIA Habitat for Humanity house, and served as chairperson of the AIA Committee on the Environment. His work has been published in Architectural Digest and Popular Science, among others. Bill is building a straw bale home in Teton Valley, Idaho.


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Customer Reviews

3.9 out of 5 stars
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews

67 of 67 people found the following review helpful By Midwest Reader on May 17, 2005
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
I first became interested in straw construction after seeing Steve McDonald's small but functional house in the Strawbale Tour video -- it wasn't anything to brag about except for its superinsulation and especially its cost, something like four or five grand. Now this was something even I could do if I scrimped and scrounged and did most of the work myself. But since then, it seems most of the books on strawbale have backed away from the affordable owner-built homes and toward more visually appealing (and expensive) houses. Catherine Wanek's newest book, THE NEW STRAWBALE HOME, is a very nice coffeetable hardback and I'm glad I have it, but when it comes to cost there's only a few houses in it I could ever hope to afford. Sure, it becomes more cost-effective down the line when you factor in the energy savings straw permits, but let's face it, if the upfront cost is out of reach, long-term value becomes a moot point. For that reason I slowly drifted away from straw and started looking at cob construction instead. (And let me recommend an excellent book in that regard, THE HAND SCULPTED HOUSE by Ianto Evans et al.)

But SMALL STRAWBALE by the Steens has helped revive my interest. It showcases projects that are a lot more accessible to the average person or inexperienced builder -- from fences and sheds to workshops, offices, and finally small one-and-two room houses. There are helpful diagrams and floorplans but it's not a construction manual per se; for that, I still suggest BUILD IT WITH BALES by McDonald and Matts Myrhman. This book is more to show what's possible with a little straw and a little enthusiasm and a whole lot of effort, and that there's a lot to be said for building small and within one's means. The photos are top quality and very inspirational. In fact, between this and Evans' cob book, I think it's time I start shopping for land again...
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33 of 33 people found the following review helpful By Daniel Lamb on November 15, 2005
Format: Paperback
Like one of the other reviewers, I too have read most every book on strawbale construction, as well as the 'ideas' books. This one though was different. The focus was more on efficient building by concentrating on a smaller-sized home than on the fact that the method or building material was strawbale, (although that too was highlighted.) Many of the other books on the subject of strawbale seem to simply replace stick-frame construction with bale walls, but leave the rest of the designs virtually unchanged. One the things that drew me to strawbale to begin with was the lowered impact on the environment by using a more sustainable product to build the walls. If we then turn around and build an inefficient home that wastes resources in other areas, what have we really acheived?

the book does NOT go into detail on either the construction methods used or the plus of using strawbale as an insulator, (all of which is covered in great detail in other books,) It does give conceptual ideas on how to make a smaller home that is efficient and esthetically pleasing to live in however, and some ideas on how to take that initial small home and 'grow' it over time to meet the changing needs of a family.

I'd recommend this book to anyone who is interested in more sustainable living, and reducing our impact on the planet by living more efficiently off the land.
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19 of 19 people found the following review helpful By redrockjan on June 25, 2005
Format: Paperback
I have read most of the available books on strawbale building and I rate this as one of the best. I especially liked the way this book was arranged. It included some unexpected bonus photos and information on garden walls and other small, usefull free-standing structures that were also artistically inspiring. Another unusual inclusion in this book ( and also in "The Beauty of Strawbale") were informational segments ie.Porches, Basic Design Guidelines for Small Houses, Built-in Furniture, and a very unusual segment on the sawdust toilet! These segments also seemed to give some insight into the author's evolutionary experiences.

Finally, it seems important to understand what the author's intention was in creating this book. One of the overriding challenges in spreading the potential of strawbale building is to be able to demonstrate what has been accomplished to date and to relate in an inspirational manner just how an ordinary person may duplicate these efforts. In this regard, the book succeeds admirably. If you want to find a book that tells you all you need to know about the building process then you will do better by reading one of the many fine books whose purpose that is. This book will inspire folks to begin to build with strawbales, and that beginning is the book's most valuable gift
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14 of 15 people found the following review helpful By A. Burchfield on October 11, 2006
Format: Paperback
I'm another one of those readers who has most of Amazon's strawbale books, I decided to get this one just in case it had something useful to add.In reading through it I think many of the projects described are by/for the Steens themselves although I did recognize a couple of other names.

Each project gets 3 or 4 pages with a main photo of the subject and possibly some detail shots as well as a sort of floor plan. There are even a few related sections between these that are connected to the subject but not actually a part of it, these might actually be the parts you most need to read.

Several other people contributed chapters , some of these have websites but as for resources you're pretty much on your own. You do get a few diagrams on some bits but there's not much of a resource list (an item or two), you'll need to get some other books on just about any facet of building your strawbale structure.

I gave it four stars because it is a nice looking book and does have some worthwhile pointers. I do wish someone would write something that gives you a do it all bibliography concerning everything from foundation design/construction through the finish work- no book that I've seen at Amazon does that in my experience.
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