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Steamboat Magazine

Straw Bale Home

02/28/2014 03:45PM ● By Grant Johnson

Photo by Michael Shopenn

This passive solar 1,150-square-foot home west of Steamboat Springs was built with straw bales sourced from the San Luis Valley and a heavy timber structure. With its sturdy insulation and low energy use, this modest two-bedroom, one-bath home has one of the Yampa Valley’s smallest energy footprints.

Utilizing Colorado’s sunny days, each room is lit by natural light, including the closets. Even with its relatively small square footage, the home provides plenty of privacy. The two bedrooms are situated remotely from one another to ensure low sound transmission. Living spaces are designed to be flexible for multiple, alternative uses. A main room includes the kitchen, dining area and living room, each of which can easily make the transition from play space to elegant dinner party.

Being well insulated is a significant perk of straw bale construction. Straw bale walls store heat, making the space less susceptible to temperature change. The home stays cool in the summer and warm in the winter. This home’s straw bale walls are about R-45 (R-value measures the resistance to heat) and the southern framed walls have sprayed-in foam insulation with an R-35 rating. The roof has sprayed foam insulation rated at R-60. This racks the home’s electric bill up to only about $35 a month, which will likely decrease as the complete utility plan comes into play.    

Designed for the future, the home’s radiant floor heat is ready to be converted to source from thermal solar panels, and a grid-tied electrical system will increase its self-sufficiency with an addition of photovoltaic panels. What may at first appear whimsical is not hap-hazard. Using Golden Mean proportions, the home was designed with a geometric equation that creates a golden mean spiral. It is all part of a meticulously plotted design for this sustainable straw bale home.

Todd Young, TY Arch LLC

James Welch, Ergo Construction

Heavy Timber and Finish Work
Beauregard Construction 

Plaster and Stucco
Jan Cohen  

Dave Levine

Sleeping Giant Electrical

Michael Shopenn