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 The Last Straw -
 The International  Journal of Straw  Bale and Natural  Building

- Promoting natural building, and sustainable design and development, through research, training, education and consulting services.

Books from
This is a select list of sustainable building books and videos from, where you can obtain the best selection at the lowest prices. Buying these resources through this website does not add to the cost and helps support the Institute.

Alternative Construction: Contemporary Natural Building Materials
by Lynne Elizabeth and Cassandra Adams

The first comprehensive guide to combining traditional natural materials and modern construction methods. This book examines a broad range of traditional and modern natural construction methods, including straw-bale, light-clay, cob, adobe, rammed earth and pisť, earthbag, earth-sheltered, bamboo, and hybrid systems. It also covers key ecological design principles, as well as current engineering and building code requirements by experts on each building system.

A Sampler of Alternative Homes: Approaching Sustainable Architecture
by Kelly Hart

This two-hour videotape from, provides an excellent overview of sustainable building concepts. You can enjoy a look at a fascinating variety of homes and the creative people who built them! Building techniques shown include: adobe blocks, piled or puddled adobe, rammed earth, straw bale (both load-bearing and post and beam), straw and clay catenary arch, earthships, cordwood thin-shelled concrete domes, papercrete, earthbags, hybrids and more. Discover how passive solar design and environmentally low-impact materials can be used to create comfortable and economical homes.

The Art of Natural Building- Design, Construction, Resources
Edited by Joseph E. Kennedy, Michael G. Smith and Catherine Wanek

This comprehensive introduction to the natural building field is for lay people, architects, and designers who wish to build beautiful, low-cost, and environmentally-sensible structures. From straw bale and cob, to recycled concrete and salvaged materials, this anthology of articles from leaders in the field focuses on both the practical and the esthetic concerns of ecological building designs and techniques. Profusely illustrated and packed with resources.

The Beauty of Straw Bale Homes
by Bill and Athena Steen

The Beauty of Straw Bale Homes is an extremely beautiful, well-written, and informative book. The photographs are elegant and awe inspiring. If you've been thinking about building a straw bale home, this book is a great place to look for creative design ideas. The Steens have also provided valuable information on earthen plasters, wall finishes, moisture, and ways to retrofit a home with straw bales in this delightful gem of a book.

Build It With Bales: A Step-By-Step Guide to Straw-Bale Construction, Version Two
by S. O. Macdonald and Matts Myhrman

When it comes time to build your straw bale house, read this book. While most books on the subject gloss over the details, this one is perhaps the most informative of them all. It is filled with detailed drawings that anyone can follow. Straw bale design and building methods are improving with each new straw bale house built, so read the latest information available. This book gives you all the facts you need to actually build your straw bale house.

Building With Awareness: The Construction of a Hybrid Home
by Ted Owens

Possibly the highest quality and most comprehensive video ever made on the design and construction of a sustainable straw bale home. This beautifully photographed how-to DVD will show you how to build straw bale walls for insulation, adobe walls for interior thermal mass, earth plasters for a beautiful finish, 100% electrical generation by sunlight, and passive solar heating and cooling. This video could save you thousands of dollars in design and construction costs. Beautiful aesthetics and energy-efficiency can both come from the same materials. It is how the structure is designed as a whole that makes the difference. Follow the design and construction of one house - from start to finish - and see how aesthetics, comfort, and energy efficiency can all come from the same materials and design parameters. This video is jam-packed with green design and construction techniques from professionals working on the cutting edge of sustainable home building and design.

Read our full review on our Publications page.

Building With Earth: A Guide to Flexible-Form Earthbag Construction
by Paulina Wojciechowska

Building with Earth is the first comprehensive guide to describe the re-emergence of earthen architecture in North America, where adventurous builders are combining timeless forms such as arches, vaults and domes with modern materials and techniques. Using inexpensive, recycled or salvaged polypropylene tubing, even relatively inexperienced builders can construct an essentially tree-free building, from foundation to curved roof.

More Straw Bale Building : A Complete Guide to Designing and Building with Straw
by Chris Magwood and Peter Mack

Despite growing interest in the technique, however, most straw bale books focus on "selling" the dream of straw bale building, but don't adequately address the most critical issues faced by bale house builders. More Straw Bale Building is designed to fill this gap. It leads the potential builder through the entire process of building a bale structure, tackling all the practical issues: finding and choosing bales; developing sound building plans; roofing; electrical, plumbing, and heating systems; building code compliance; and special concerns for builders in northern climates.

Serious Straw Bale: A Construction Guide for All Climates
by Paul Lacinski and Michel Bergeron

This book provides the metaphorical nuts and bolts of straw bale construction for homes and other buildings. Unlike many other straw bale construction books on the market, this one looks at building design issues from the perspective of straw bale builders and considers the particular needs of the medium. Several different techniques are discussed, focusing much information on the needs of those building in wet and/or cold environments. Many illustrations, some color, and several project profiles demonstrate the theories discussed.

Straw Bale Details A Manual for Designers and Builders
by Chris Magwood and Chris Walker

Straw Bale Details is the perfect book for those who are serious about building with straw. It focuses entirely on the specific design theories and practices that result in well-built, long-lasting bale structures. It extends the range of books like Straw Bale Building through large, easy-to-read architectural drawings rendered for a wide variety of building options, including load-bearing and post-and-beam designs. A range of foundation, wall, door and window, and roof-plate scenarios is presented, along with notes and possible modifications. Also included are the most recent testing data to help base designer and builder decisions on sound science.

The Straw Bale House
by Bill and Athena Steen, and David Bainbridge

This is the most popular book on straw bale houses. The book is comprehensive, broadly covering why and how to build with straw and then focusing on the details, which are both intellectually and aesthetically delightful. There are lots of black-and-white and color plates of strikingly beautiful interiors and exteriors from New Mexico to southern France. Both new and experienced builders will appreciate the clear, simple instructions and diagrams, as well as practical explanations for dealing with building codes and insurers.

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