After the devastating earthquake of 2005 which destroyed nearly half a million rural homes in Pakistan, there was an urgent need to build earthquake resistant homes. Thus came into being PAKSBAB which is the short form of Pakistan Straw Bale and Appropriate Buildings. So far PAKSBAB, from its limited resources, has build 27 homes in northern parts of Pakistan. These homes have been built using indigenous resources and by training the local people in construction of straw bale houses.
A typical straw bale house has an area of 576 square feet and costs $3000 on average. This turns out to be $5.2/square feet which is less than half the cost of brick and mortar houses. A typical home comprises of two rooms, a verandah and a kitchen and requires around 1200 hours of labour. So 6 people working for 8 hours daily can construct a straw bale house in 25 days!
The main advantages of straw bale houses over brick and mortar houses are highlighted below.
1. Energy efficiency, since straw is a good insulator
2. Non toxic products are used (light straw, clay and wood)
3. Cheap materials are used resulting in a cost that is half that of a regular house
4. Resistant to earthquakes
Tightly packed walls and a gravel weighted foundation creates better weather-proofing
Twice as energy efficient as a conventional house, straw bale makes for environmentally friendly earthquake-proof homes
Clay-plaster reinforced, a fabricated straw bale house costs half the expenses of modern building for every square foot
Straw bales required for the construction of these energy efficient and earthquake resilient homes are built using manually operated farm jacks and locally manufactured compression moulds. Furthermore the local industry is being encouraged to supply straw bales and other materials required for these projects. Additional appropriate building methods that PAKSBAB is promoting include passive solar, rainwater catchment, solar lamps, high-efficiency cooking and heating, and the use of natural building materials such as light straw clay, wattle and daub, and cob.