There are so many high-tech ways to build a house. You can meld shipping containers for a new take on modular homes, you can go utterly passive and ditch the furnace and AC all together, you can even build a structure almost entirely out of glass--and that's all way cool.

Joanna Linberg

There are so many high-tech ways to build a house. You can meld shipping containers for a new take on modular homes, you can go utterly passive and ditch the furnace and AC all together, you can even build a structure almost entirely out of glass--and that's all way cool.

But right now, I'm drawn to a building technique that actually has its roots on the prairie in the 1860s: straw bale construction. According to David Arkin of the California Straw Building Associate (CASBA), homes made with straw bales have thick exterior walls, are energy-efficient, and are actually more fire-resistant than conventional construction techniques. The best part is how they're made: homeowners gather their friends, family, and neighbors for a "bale raising" party. Everyone gets a thorough how-to from on-site pros, then the community literally builds the home together, usually sharing a potluck meal later in the day.

Want to try it out? CASBA is hosting a three-day workshop in Yolo County (north of San Francisco) October 12-14 where anyone can get hands-on experience in building straw bale homes. Come on, you know you want to one up Laura Ingalls Wilder.

photo courtesy CASBA

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