Iowa Straw Bale House Overview - Homes Across America Search Return

Iowa Straw Bale House











(This house reported 30 resource efficient features.
Percentages above indicate the distribution of features and total 100%)


  • Incorporate renewable agricultural products from Iowa, straw in this case, into the home's construction.
The Iowa Straw-bale house looks right at home in its new subdivision.


  • Location: Washington, Iowa
  • Climate Zone: Cold
  • Type of Project: New Construction
  • Home Completed: 2003
  • Setting: suburban
  • Energy Source: - natural gas - grid electric
  • Layout: Single-Family; 3 bedroom; Attached garage
  • Lot Size: 3500 sqft
  • Square Footage: 1462
  • Sales Market: Low-income
  • Cost/Square Foot: $ 96.00


Julie Myers, Development Director
MidAmerica Housing Partnership - MAHP
- Developer - Builder - Designer

Phone: 319-365-6247
Fax: 319-862-0833

MAHP has a construction and design staff, so serves as its own general contractor. For this home, Rick Matthews and Gary Steger served as project managers.


Although virtually all construction projects have unanticipated challenges, with any home deemed "alternative", it is especially important for all parties to engage in as much upfront planning and communication as possible. The Iowa Straw Bale home is a beautiful example of cooperation and craftsmanship. It is healthy, affordable, and energy efficient. By design and philosophy, the MidAmerica Housing Partnership put the majority of its green materials into the interior of this home to make it comfortable and perform well. The home actually exceeds our expectations. Without many people working together and conscientiously to make it happen, however, the project would not be the success it is.

Among things we would do differently is make sure we had the stucco constractor lined up and all questions about the home's exterior answered before installing the straw bales. And, although using volunteers was absolutely necessary to get this home completed close to budget, we learned ways to better manage the work flow to maximize their contributions. These lessons will be used on our next project. Having volunteers involved, however, enabled MAHP to pursue one of its larger goals, which is to educate people on the importance and ways of resource efficient home construction. Our volunteers did more than work. They provided important feedback as to how to build the home so it accomplished its goals.

Because of the nature of this home and the humid Iowa climate, planning for moisture was a major design and building issue. We broke this down into three phases. Phase I detailed specifically how to harvest and store the straw bales, with ongoing monitoring of their moisture content. Phase II was the design of the exterior structure. Phase III was formulating and applying the stucco exterior.

Heating coils for the slab floor heating system were secured before the fly ash concrete was called in.

Volunteers and home grown straw bales were important parts of the project.

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