Can I get a permit to build a straw-bale building?
As testing, design innovation and field experience expand the knowledge and practice of straw-bale construction, its acceptance with building departments is growing. Initially, all permitted straw bale projects had to be approved under the Uniform Building Code - Section 104, Alternate Material, wholly at the discretion of the local building official. This is still the case in most locations. Straw bale pioneers in a given area spend countless hours educating building officials, contractors, banks and insurers about straw bale construction, but their job is slowly getting easier. Matts Myhrman and David Eisenberg perceived the need for straw-bale construction guidelines and worked with local building officials to create a prescriptive code for load bearing straw-bale structures. In 1997, Pima County, AZ, adopted the first (and so far only) prescriptive code for load bearing straw-bale structures. As long as projects fall within the stated prescriptions, submissions do not require the signature of an architect or engineer.
In 1995, the California assembly passed a model code based the Pima County working code , which has been adopted by many California jurisdictions. Because the California code doesn’t address seismic conditions, projects still require the signature of an architect or engineer. Over half the counties in California have adopted this code or issued permits under UBC section 104.
In 1997, New Mexico adopted a statewide code governing the construction of post and beam straw-bale projects (and effectively prohibiting load-bearing projects). Austin, TX, Boulder, CO, Cortez, CO, and Guadalupe, AZ all have adopted various SB codes for builders in their jurisdictions.
In areas without straw-bale building codes, permits can be issued at the discretion of the local building official. Meeting with your local officials and educating them about straw-bale construction early in the design process can avoid many problems later on. David Eisenberg has written a great guide to working with your building official .