To many of us, straw is nothing more than brown stubble left behind after the harvest. Once considered an agricultural waste product, straw is the basis of a cost-effective and energy-efficient building material, providing an alternative to expensive lumber.
In Perrytown, Texas, on the high plains of the panhandle, Cindy Thyfault of Stramit USA is manufacturing interior wall panels from some of the 200 million tons of straw that is normally burned or plowed under every year in this country. In a process developed in Sweden, the straw is tightly compressed and heated to 500 degrees Fahrenheit with metal plates. Emitting its own resin under the heat and pressure, the straw bonds into a hard durable panel. No glues, fillers or binders are needed in the process.
These compressed straw walls, known as Stramit, are fire resistant and provide excellent thermal and sound insulation. When finished with plaster, they have the appearance of a traditional interior wall. Thyfault says her product saves builders 10 to 30 percent in material costs and 20 to 50 percent in labor costs compared with traditional building materials. Stramit USA is continuing to develop new building materials from straw, including products for wall partition systems and exterior load-bearing walls.
In the next two years, Thyfault expects to triple her production crew, bringing new jobs and revenue to the rural community of Perrytown, and a new, inexpensive building material to the marketplace.Greenbeat