The history of CASBA and Straw Bale Building in California
1992 - The California Rice Straw Burning Reduction Act is passed, forcing Rice Farmers to find alternative methods for disposing of their straw waste.
1995 - Spearheaded by Assemblyman Byron Sher in an effort to help rice farmers find markets for their straw, California State Guidelines for Straw Bale Structures (AB1314) is passed. These are voluntary, and must be adopted at the local level before being utilized or enforced. In California, these Guidelines are the closest thing to a straw bale 'Building Code' that exists.
1996 - The California Straw Building Assoc. (CASBA) is formed after a chance meeting of like minds at a Natural Building Colloquium in New Mexico. Turko Semmes & Greg McMillan call the first meeting at a motel on the Carrizo Plain of San Luis Obispo County.
1999 - CASBA hosts the First International Straw Building Conference in San Francisco, CA. Organized by members Ann Edminster and Bruce King, it is attended by over 120 straw bale building experts from around the world.
1999 - Pamela Wadsworth-Goode and Kelly Lerner assemble CASBA's Building Officials' Guide to Straw-Bale Construction. A compilation of testing and information about structure, moisture, fire and other subjects to assist officials in permitting and inspecting straw bale buildings.
1999 - CASBA's Straw Bale Construction Sourcebook, a book of straw bale details and construction methods, is created and published. The effort is led by architect, professor and straw bale pioneer Ken Haggard with contributions by many CASBA members.
2001 - A straw bale seismic & moisture testing program is initiated with a Calif. Dept. of Food & Agriculture grant and contributions from CASBA fundraising. The $250,000 effort was led by CASBA member Bruce King, PE., with help from other members including engineers Mark Aschheim, David Mar and Kevin Donahue, architects Kelly Lerner and Dan Smith, and contractor Tim Owen-Kennedy and his company Vital Systems.
2002 - After a two year concerted effort led by architect Martin Hammer, with the help of Bruce King and Dan Smith, California Senate Bill 332 (SB332) was signed by Governor Gray Davis. This Bill revised the previous California Guidelines because they contained 'requirements that . . . were either unnecessary or detrimental.'
2004-07 - Martin Hammer and other members worked diligently on 'Appendix L - Straw Bale Construction,' a proposed appendix which would officially incorporate straw bale into the California Building Code. After numerous disappointments, they turn their sites to the International Residential Code instead.
2006 - Bruce King and his Ecological Building Network receive a grant from the Ayrshire Foundation and contributions from CASBA to fund ASTM E119-05a fire testing, an important step in the official testing requirements needed to satisfy building, lending & insurance officials. An earth plastered wall passes with a 1 hour rating, and a lime-cement plastered wall receives a 2 hour rating.
Throughout this short timeline CASBA members have continued to break ground with county and city building departments across the state, helping to make building with straw bales an accepted form of construction in California. They have also inspired straw building associations in other states and countries. CASBA, a non profit organization, continues to update 'Best Practices' for this form of building and organizes annual workshops to promote them.