I hadn’t heard of balecob building until I wrote a piece on earthbag building for Mother Earth News Magazine and they guided me to an article on the subject as a template. The simple premise is that the method combines the best elements of strawbale and cob building into one seamless form. Strawbales are used for the majority of the walls and cob is used to make an even base, support “pillars,” and something like a bond beam. Strawbales have an incredible amount of insulative value, making them ideal for hotter and colder environments.
As the authors point out in the article, hybrids of building styles can often achieve the greatest results. In all of our earthbag homes, we work with lots of cob and build large bottle walls. The inner walls of the houses are usually stick frame (since bulky earthbag walls generally aren’t needed in the interior). Before we built our earthship-inspired earthbag house, we were considering an earthbag/strawbale hybrid. The only thing that stopped us is that we live in an area with high relative humidity and have heard of strawbale homes becoming enormous mold factories here. I have also seen two professionally-built strawbale houses in North Carolina that didn’t seem to harbor mold but we didn’t consider it to be worth the added risk.
If we get land in a dryer area some day, I plan on building a strawbale tiny house and will probably incorporate these techniques into the project. I may also opt for a more traditional post and beam structure. Before building anything it is wise to take some time and to plan out the details. Natural building isn’t a one-size-fits-all scenario–the best buildings are site specific and will use as many local materials as possible. Thanks for reading!