San Diego Company Uses Straw Bales, Clay to Build Homes Designed to Withstand Fire

Simple Construct CEO Rebecca Tasker said the homes her company designs with pioneer-like materials are more difficult to burn than modern construction

A San Diego-based company is using old school materials like straw bales and clay to build homes that are more fire-resistant for Southern California residents who worry about wildfires season after season.

Simple Construct is applying tried and true, pioneer-like technology to build houses designed in a way that makes them more difficult to burn. And, amid red flag warnings and Santa Ana winds sweeping The Golden State, this type of home protection may be top of mind for many San Diego residents.

Now, when you think of fire-resistant materials, straw probably doesn’t come to mind. However, straw is the primary building material that makes Simple Construct homes harder to burn.

The resurgence of straw bale homes comes more than 200 years after they were first built on American soil.

Simple Construct CEO Rebecca Tasker told NBC 7 the homes are safe and solid.

"There is a sense of shelter and security,” Tasker explained. “These are thick walls; you feel very protected.”

The walls are nearly 2 feet thick. They’re made with rectangular straw bales, stacked like bricks.

"These bales are left over from the production of wheat," Tasker said.

Those bales are then coated with inch-thick clay plaster inside and out. Tasker said the materials are more fire-resistant than standard, modern construction.

"It’s between one to two hours rating for the wall, whereas most conventional buildings are 30 minutes," Tasker said.

The bales are 60 to 70 pounds. The density keeps inside temperatures consistent, conserving energy and keeping outside threats, like fire, at bay, Tasker said.

"There is a not a lot of oxygen flow in there so fire just smolders it can't light," Tasker said.

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The homes come as craftsman style or modern as you like, Tasker said.

And, while the design of these homes is serious business for Tasker, you’re just not going to build straw homes on San Diego County without a few wisecracks from clients.

"We mostly get ‘Three Little Pigs’ jokes," she said.

Huff and puff all you like, but you're not going to blow down her homes, she added.

Simple Construct isn't the only company in San Diego building straw homes.

Tasker said in her research, she has found 60 companies doing this countywide and suspects there are more.

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