Page E2.1 . 06 June 2007                     
ArchitectureWeek - Environment Department
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    HOK Straw Bale

    by ArchitectureWeek

    For over a decade, straw-bale construction has been growing in popularity among "alternative" house builders. The durable, low-cost, nontoxic, highly insulating, pest-resistant, and potentially structural material is especially practical in hot arid climates. It was used extensively in the treeless grasslands of the U.S. Midwest early in the 20th century.

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    Despite the many advantages, this technology has not been widely adopted for nonresidential architecture or by the professional mainstream. This may now be changing, as shown by the large firm HOK, a leader in the sustainability movement, in using straw bales for wall infill for the Santa Clarita (California) Transit Maintenance Facility.

    Straw is a renewable agricultural waste product, locally available in many places,that might otherwise go into a landfill or be burned creating particulate pollution. Using it for this building's construction system was the architects' response to several constraints: a seismically active site, modest budget, desert environment, and high sustainability goals. The result is a LEED-Gold building one of the first LEED-certified straw-bale buildings in the world that is energy-efficient and promotes a healthy indoor environment.

    Officials of the City of Santa Clarita had decided to convert their entire bus fleet from diesel fuel to compressed natural gas, a conversion that required a new maintenance facility. They selected a 12-acre (4.9-hectare) site in an existing business park northwest of downtown, on the edge of the high desert.   >>>

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    ArchWeek Image

    Santa Clarita (California) Transit Maintenance Facility designed by HOK, with walls of straw bale.
    Photo: John Edward Linden

    ArchWeek Image

    Straw-bale infill wall in a heavy-timber frame.
    Photo: John Edward Linden


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