Temporary Shelter

Straw Bale Emergency Shelter: complete plans are free online.
Straw Bale Emergency Shelter: complete plans are free online.

So, you’ve bought a piece of land in a remote, rural area with few or no building codes and more jackrabbits than people. Where do you live while you’re building your sustainable home? Pay rent? Nah, that’s so twentieth century. You want free accommodation so you can put your money toward your new home, and you want to live on site to save money and time. Consider building a ‘temporary’ straw bale shelter.

Follow the links for complete details. A shelter like this can be built in one day (or one hour with help from friends) and last for years. This is one of my favorite topics. I used to have workshop participants build these to help learn construction basics. They’re a real eye opener. People start to realize they don’t need to pay rent or a mortgage to have a decent little house. And it would be very easy to expand and modify if you wanted. I have a larger 2-bedroom version. Each room can be added in about one day.

Summary of building process: Stack straw bales on level pallets like big blocks. Alternate courses of bales so joints overlap like masonry. The shelter is designed so few or no bales have to be cut and resized (easy to do if necessary). Add a pole lintel over the doorway and then set rafter poles perpendicularly. Add a sheet or old blanket and leaves or loose straw on top, and cover with a tarp. Smear mud on the bales to protect against moisture.

Free straw bale shelter plans include drawings, list of tools and materials, and construction notes. Hmm. This would look good in SketchUp animation.

I got a thank-you letter from a family who survived a severe winter up north in one of the shelters. They used very little firewood and were warm and comfortable. Maybe I can find the letter and post it here. I think they built one for their horses too.

Background info: The straw bale emergency shelter was originally designed by Matts Myhrman and Judy Knox (who recently passed away), some of the ‘grandparents’ of the modern straw bale movement. Watch the following video for inspiration and to learn how to start a business where the phone rings off the hook, you get 100 pieces of mail a day and people just start showing up at your door. That’s what happened to them and can happen to anyone who demonstrates how to build super low cost houses.

One more note: Kelly Hart re-recorded one of the last public copies of Matts’ video that shows how to build the straw bale shelter. It’s now on my Natural House’s YouTube channel. The video shows how he and a few volunteers build the shelter — unrehearsed! — in 3-1/2 hours.

3 thoughts on “Temporary Shelter”

  1. Nice video.Yes, I can imagine there is a demand for a low cost home that is super insulated and people can build. This has the can do attitude that our country has been known for.

  2. That’s wonderful! We’re lucky to have a home to live in while we build but I’ve heard from quite a few people who’ve abandoned their plans because their temporary shelters were a little heavy on the ‘temporary’, light on the ‘shelter’. I bet this article helps out a lot of people. :)


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