Gallery: PREFAB FRIDAY: Straw Bale Meets Factory Built in Switzerland


We’re quite taken by Strohhaus in Eschenz, Switzerland. Designed by Zurich-based architect Felix Jerusalem, this home masterfully combines prefab with sustainable materials, primarily prefabricated strawboard panels that provide affordable, environmentally sound insulation. Jerusalem exploits the strawboard with translucent siding giving the structure a clean, modern aesthetic that showcases the material.

A corrugated plastic exterior protects the compressed strawbale which is structural and serves as the primary heat and sound insulation. Jerusalem used three variations of the strawboard throughout the design. Lightweight panels are in place for thermal and acoustic insulation, middle weight for interior walls and a heavy panel is used for structural elements. All are emission free, formaldehyde free and fully recyclable.

The clean lines of the exterior translate to the inside with a simple layout that serves three bedrooms, living room, kitchen, bath and loft – all with a bounty of natural daylight. Inside, Strohhaus takes advantage of the high solar thermal performance of concrete using the material for the home’s central core. The whole package sits just above the site on piers making less earthwork part of its lighter footstep.

+ Strohhaus


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  1. mudgirl January 25, 2008 at 12:41 pm

    Having been in strawbale construction seeing things like this make me cringe. The Canandian Housing and Mortage Association has done a number of studies that indicate concrete or plastic as the exterior protection for strawbale is just down right asking for problems.

    I’ve heard strawboard is a bit different and s often treated to deal with mositure issues. But, most builders nowadays will tell you that earthen plaster, lime plaster or a concrete with high high amounts of lime is the way to go for exterior cladding and protection on bale walls.

    The plastic exterior makes me worry. I hope they aren’t putting low income people into that home!

    Strawbale, in general handles most climates, other than tropical, quite well given proper exterior cladding and good roof overhangs. They’re quite popular in most parts of Canada and there are a number of successful examples throughout the US and world. See for a listing of strawbale buildings to find someone local to you to go visit and ask questions.

  2. Emily January 22, 2008 at 11:42 am

    How does the haybale/straw construction perform in humid climates? I know of several examples in the US in arid or desert climates, but have heard the thermal properties are not as efficient in humid climates, plus is there any potential for mold and mildew? But still a great methodology where straw is an easily accessible resource – provides opportunities for local and regional economic benefits and employment, and very much a renewable resource.

  3. Alberto January 19, 2008 at 12:22 pm

    Sono daccordo con alcuni richiami su Villa La Roche internamente (sulla seconda immagine), anche se in quel caso Le Corbusier utilizza una rampa e qui vi è una scala; ciò significa che lo sguardo si interrompe. Ma oltre a questo breve lapsus, sembra richiamare sull’angolo d’entrata con gli scalini, la parte rialzata e la vetrata la Farnswort di Mies, sebbene la politica del “Less is more” e della verità del costruire non sono molto rispettati. Un’altimo richiamo che penso sia stato utilizzato per questa struttura è dato dagli edifici realizzati da Murcutt. Concordo infine con la polemica relativa alla tossicità dei materiali utilizzati, essi sembrano risultare tossici e quindi non idonei.

    Italia Sicilia Catania

  4. Richie January 19, 2008 at 9:38 am

    Nice. Definitely a step forward in many respects. it looks like the dwelling could be built very quickly as well. A great combination of off site fabrication of elements and on site assembly. Not ‘prefab’ and not ‘factory built’… but a savvy combo of the best of both ? I look forward to the less costly spinoffs of this approach. Nice work.

  5. simon seasons January 19, 2008 at 9:11 am

    In reply to Nick Simpson, I have heard that a lot of big city buildings in Japan have an expected life span of 25 years tops after which they are inevitably demolished and another skyline emerges. That a house will only last 25 years is not a problem as long as the recyclability is not a problem. The problem emerges when the occupant expects a longer lifespan. This could be achieved by recladding the house in corrugated galvanised steel or by building a more durable house in the first place. Indigenous cultures I have encountered ( I lived in a mountain villiage in Thailand for a while) rebuild the cladding of their houses every year and make it into a communal event were everyone spend two or three weeks chatting and partying around a fire while they weave the whole villiages roof and wall cladding. At the end of that time one or two days are spent putting it all up and then it’s life back to normal when they don’t talk to each other until next year.

  6. Eco-Thinker January 18, 2008 at 8:21 pm

    Eco-friendly trailer park!

    I agree Chad. These trailers manufactured in the states are built with all sorts of toxics sludge and petrol based plastics, and sold for half the value of a comparable house usually. Toxic and expensive. Sounds like the food system here, too….anywho. Cool post. yay Switzerland

  7. Chad January 18, 2008 at 10:38 am

    Love the translucent sheathing showing off the very green building material. This looks like a similar product to Enviro Board on the west coast trying to get off the ground. Hopefully we’ll see similar modern, green and affordable designs available in the states soon.

  8. Nick Simpson January 18, 2008 at 6:43 am

    I quite like this… The stair strangely reminds me of Villa La Roche in Raris, not sure why. Good use of thermal mass too, one of the big problems for these little prefabs is the extent to which they’ll overheat in the summer. Lots of light, very airy.

    One question, would the translucent plastic cladding not result in the sun eventually breaking down the straw in any way? Will the plastic cladding itself not be broken down by the sun in about 30 years? I suppose these prefabs aren’t built to last for centuries, but I’d be interested to know its expected lifespan…

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