May 30, 2006 Every now and again, a technology comes along that is so momentous that it changes the way we do things from that point forth. Last year we saw the LifeStraw and this year, Strawjet. Strawjet just took out the History Channel’s Modern Marvels Invent Now Challenge and we suspect the sudden attention from this respected global medium will help to garner universal support for an ingenious idea.

Strawjet is being developed by the Ashland School of Environmental Technology in Oregon. The School is a collaborative learning community dedicated to life-enhancing, technological innovations that serve ecological and humanitarian values worldwide and with the Strawjet project it has done itself proud. Strawjet manufactures straw into a low cost, fully recyclable, structural and insulating building material. Straw is harvested during the grain harvest and converted directly into entire finished wall sections for the construction of homes of any design, from standard homes to rapid assembly shelters for the developing world and disaster relief. Other building materials such as, cement, steel, wood, and glass, are associated with significant environmental costs through to their extraction, manufacture or harvest while straw is often considered a waste product and is continuously renewable and universally available. As a by-product of harvesting food crops it does not place any additional burden on the environment. It offers better insulation than typical brick and mortar construction and is better able to withstand the stresses of an earthquake. It saves resources for building, and provides the farmer with another source of income or the ability to create his own building materials as required. The process harvests straw, orients the stems so they are all parallel, then compresses and binds it into a continuous length of two inch diameter rigid cable which can be combined into a construction material in several ways. Labor costs at the building site are greatly reduced as the company has developed a system to combine the cables into standard panels and hence into completed wall systems in the field. Main diagram explanation: (1) modified combine grain harvester makes cables and harvests grain simultaneously. (2) truck collects cables, cuts them to eight foot lengths, weaves them into a mat and rolls the mat for ease of handling. (3) mat ready for use and a stack of mats. (4) Each pass of laminator adds a layer to composite wall. Layers are pinned and bonded ingeniously. (5) undulating wall section being made. (6) section of wall with the mobile cutter ready to cut it into finished wall sections complete with door and windows (7) which are delivered by truck and assembled. (8 &9). It’s ingenious and the full story is succinctly told here with an image library here.

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