The Interpretive Center is a very unique structure, as it is the first public building in the State of California to use straw bale construction. Straw bales are an extraordinary material for a building, a use for which they were never intended. To build the Interpretive Center, standard post and beam frames were constructed with stacked straw bales as fill-in. As the bales were stacked, they were threaded on steel rods (rebar) from top to bottom to keep them aligned.
Rods that joined the bales together and reinforced the wall system were bolted through a top wooden plate and tightened down to compress the walls after the roof was installed and to minimize settling. The walls were then stuccoed and covered with a plaster finish.
Why use straw bales to build a modem structure? Buildings made of straw bales are durable, innovative, inexpensive and attractive. They are energy efficient in providing dead air insulation. They save costs in heating and cooling as well as being environmentally friendly, as they reduce wood use. With this type of structure we are using fewer of our grandchildrens' resources as well as creating a healthy, healing environment.
Straw bale construction in the United States is not a new method; it began in Nebraska in the 1880s. Some of these old straw houses are still standing after 90 years. In the old Antelope Valley, there were often "temporary" straw structures erected on Lancaster BLVD for special fairs and festivals.