Rotarians learn <br /> of hay bale house

The Vermillion Rotary Club held its weekly luncheon meeting on Tuesday, Aug. 10, at the Neuharth Media Center on the campus of  USD.  President John Prescott opened the meeting and led us in the invocation and recitation of the Rotary 4-Way Test.  This was followed by a round of singing, announcements including serving Welcome Table on Aug. 23, farewell words for our Rotary Ambassadorial Scholar Kate Davidson from Nottingham, England, and singing happy birthday to members for this month.

President Prescott introduced Mr. Rick Johns as our speaker for the day. Mr. Johns is a graduate from USD with a masters in fine arts. He is currently a building contractor, and his presentation concerned his building of a hay bale house.

He began by saying there are two different types of hay bale houses.  In one case the walls provide the structural support for the roof (known as a Nebraska style), and another style uses internal load-bearing walls to support the roof structure.

The house he recently built uses the Nebraska structure.  This particular building style results in walls, which have an R50 insulating value. Combined with a heat pump, the house is extremely energy efficient.

Part of the construction process involves compressing the hay using high tensile strength wire and ratchet mechanisms.  The exterior is finished with 1 inch of stucco re-enforced with chicken wire.  The interior is finished with plaster. All the plumbing is roughed into the floor including radiant heating tubes. He mentioned that the hay bales are dried to a great extent prior to building the walls to prevent mold from forming.

The roof structure is built using conventional trusses. The high tensile strength wire is installed every four feet and diagonal wires are used to withstand torque motions from the wind. He mentioned that a weed whacker is used to smooth the walls before stucco and plaster are applied.

The pictures of the house show it to be a very attractive structure both inside and out. When answering questions from the audience, he stated that this type of construction is more labor intensive, but that the building materials cost less than conventional construction.

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