Straw Bale and Timber Frame House Plans

00 strawtron - exterior south“Strawtron” is a timber frame house with straw bale insulation, my second major natural building foray after “Gobcobatron”.

We’ve designed the house to use as high a percentage of natural materials as possible, including straw, timber, earthen plaster, and reclaimed flooring. The floor plans were carefully considered to keep the interior space as minimal as possible, while still providing the utmost level of function.

Our ultimate goal has been to make the space and layout as suitable and efficient for this climate as is possible. Northeast Missouri must contend with high heat and humidity, freezing cold and snow, blowing winds and strong rains, extremely heavy clay soil, tornadoes, and drought and floods. This is not an easy place to build!

Timber Frame House Design Features


  • Building elements: straw bale insulation, timber frame with local wood (sawn white and red oak, whole black locust), concrete pier foundation, living roof, earthen and lime plasters, light clay straw porch walls
  • Interior 1st story living area rough dimensions are 13’x24′ (about 300 square feet, east end of house is rounded)
  • Greenhouse is planned to be about 10’x14′ — will serve as heat source, additional living space with solar shower, sink, etc., & space for growing lovely things
  • Roundwood spiral staircase leads up to second story above main living space, with a walk out to 6 ft. deep balcony on the west
  • North porch is a closed-in, highly ventilated space for summertime cooking and relaxing
  • Storage area above porch
  • Heat provided by small wood stove (Morso 1410 stove initially)

The Strawtron Building Timeline

Timber Frame House ConstructionApril and I designed Strawtron over the winter of 2011-12, having fully accepted that cob is not suitable for a four season dwelling in northeast Missouri. Gobcobatron would be converted to a three season rental space.

We dreamed up an ambitious plan to create a space that would be ready for living within the year. Our goal was clear from the beginning: we wanted to design an efficient, spacious yet small, beautiful, and largely hand-built home that could serve as a successful natural building model for our particular climate and place.

timber-frame-houseWe came up with floor plans and collaborated with Tom Cundiff, a professional itinerant timber framer (and Timber Framers Guild member) to come up with a timber frame design to suit the structure we had in mind. Tom deftly converted our floor plans into an actual frame, incorporating all of the elements we wished to see in the final house.

Simultaneously, we launched our entry into the world of natural building workshops and planned to host our first full-fledged classes during the summer of 2012: a Timber Frame Workshop in June, and a Straw Bale Workshop in July.

straw-bale-house-constructionThese workshops would benefit us by teaming up with experienced teachers to build a house with components with which we had little experience, to spread the labor load and simultaneously get interested individuals involved in building and gaining new skills, to expedite the timeline, and ultimately, to enable a house to be built where it wouldn’t otherwise be possible.

Both workshops were a large success. April and I have never worked harder in our lives than in that mercilessly hot summer of 2012, both working on the house and organizing / promoting / hosting two major workshops. We finished the timber frame and the roof in the nick of time, and a huge amount of work was completed during the Straw Bale Workshop. At the end of the summer, we worked alone to seal up the house, and we were able to live in the house for winter upon our return from making income further afield.

In 2013, we finished the living roof, did more interior finish work and plaster, closed in the north porch, built the roundwood spiral staircase, and… prepared to move to Kentucky (yes, we were leaving the home we had just barely begun to enjoy). But that is another story.

15 strawtron - living spaceIn 2014, we returned for a six week building marathon and fully finished the space, inside and out. Finish exterior lime plaster, finish interior clay plaster, ceilings, finish carpentry, and a host of other tasks were completed. We also went ahead and wired the home for electricity.

Strawtron has been a huge labor of love, an even bigger learning experience, and the source of much joy and many memories. It is now for sale.

Free Timber Frame House Building Plans

Here’s a full set of our building plans for the timber frame — including 3D images, floor plans, elevation drawings, etc.: Timber Frame House Floor Plans & Design.

If you find these drawings useful, please contact us and let us know. It’s possible we may make drawings of house beyond the framing elements in the future.

16 strawtron - interior east

Check out images of the complete building process here.

  • onesojourner

    You should seriously reconsider the west facing balcony. We love to sit outside in the summer months but the west direction that our deck faces makes it insanely hot in the evening.

  • Well… the balcony will be used seasonally, I think — we’ll probably be watching sunsets off the balcony at times other than mid-summer. Also, a roof over the balcony will help keep it shaded, so it won’t be fully exposed.

    The balcony is also useful on the west because it provides good wall coverage below. Many of our storms come out of that direction.

  • Peggy

    Ziggy thank you for doing what some of us only dream about, Dancing Rabbit is such a beautiful place to be ~ you are lucky!

  • I’ll be watching 2012 project anxiously. The model itself is very attractive and when it will get life in it, it will be beautiful natural (organic) building. This is really I can dream of only as said by Peggy, but you are doing it in real time so you are very lucky to have time to do such a great job.