Pioneer for Straw Bale Housing Wins ASES Award

Straw bale housing didn’t get its start with Associate Professor David Bainbridge. But the professor’s dedication to the building medium while at the US International College of Business at Alliant International University (AIU), has garnered him the American Solar Energy Society’s (ASES) Passive Solar Pioneer Award.

Portland Oregon – July 13, 2004 [] Bainbridge was given the award at this year’s ASES solar conference currently underway in Portland, Oregon. The solar organization gives out the award annually to “a true pioneer in the field whose contributions came during the early stages of the creation and development of significant ideas, theories, and concepts. Their original thinking and research should have provided the beginning of later theories and development.” In his sustainable management courses at AIU, Bainbridge introduces students to what he calls “the world’s only safe nuclear reactor;” the sun. Students in his solar lab work with window placement, orientation, thermal mass, and insulation as they construct a model solar home. Bainbridge saw the insulation advantages of straw bale building when the medium first became available. “In the 1970’s we thought it was about energy,” Bainbridge said. “Now we know that it’s really about comfort and productivity. Occupants love environmentally responsive buildings. People who live in them stay healthier, work harder, and are more secure. The commercial and industrial paybacks can often be measured in months rather than years.” A study by the Davis Energy Group showed that solar energy could actually cost less over the year in heating bills than a traditionally built home. Their optimized model solar home reduced seasonal heating and cooling bills by 70 percent. Economics and concerns about global warming are causing attitudes to change, but perhaps not fast enough. “A complex set of perverse economic incentives still encourages most builders to do the wrong thing. The underlying reasons are short-term profit and widespread ignorance about passive solar applications,” Bainbridge said. “One of the obstacles is the fact that environmentally responsive buildings are too simple to build. They require no special materials or equipment. Often design alone can create the desired savings and comfort, but this means that there is no marketing drive to adopt this approach. Instead we see millions spent on solar technology that is much less cost effective, although it’s still desirable.”
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