Financing, Plans and Permits:
After many false leads, we eventually procured a loan through a local branch of Columbia River Bank. Getting a conventional construction loan for a straw bale home is a huge deal—primarily because comparables are impossible to find. The bank officer, Ryan Levy, was able to find an appraiser who would compare our straw bale structure to other stick built houses in the neighborhood. The house appraised for $255,000. Although we spent quite a bit more than we wanted to on the architect ($21,000), we really believe this was instrumental in getting a good appraisal and permits. The architect, Terry Phelan, of Living Shelter Design (out of Issaquah, Washington) provided us with some beautiful plans and we are hoping that the extra cost will pay off in the end with a good design. We have run into a few minor problems with construction details (the bale to roof design seems to be a difficult design point). Our builder, Joe Duetz, has been a great help in the re-working of some design issues.
The City of Pendleton as adopted the State of Oregon's Straw Bale code for non-load bearing structures hence we had no difficulty in obtaining permits for our house. One interesting note is that the State Code calls for a vapor barrier paint on the interior of all exterior walls. Of course, you want the straw bale walls to breathe. It appears that most straw bale builders ignore this piece of code but the city marked out this bit in red on our plans. We are planning on using a breathable mineral paint, such as Silacote, to comply with this aspect of the building code.