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Building a Better World, One Straw-Bale Home at a Time

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Brennan Stark decided during high school that he would put his education to good use by making the world a better place. The UD freshman, a graduate of Archmere Academy, is well on his way.

Through his nonprofit Y Innovations, Stark and his colleagues raised more than $55,000 to purchase a property in Wilmington and build an environmentally friendly house for a homeless family. They broke ground in April and hope to turn the home over to the family by summer’s end.

Stark is using a natural building approach in construction—a post-and-beam frame with walls made of straw bales surfaced with natural lime plaster to protect them from weathering.

What makes this project unique is that it’s occurring in a city, and it will be the first of its kind in Delaware.

“Straw-bale construction has always been done off the grid, in rural areas on farms, and usually not to code,” says Stark, who is studying entrepreneurship and technology innovation with a focus in computer science. “There are about 1,100 straw buildings in the United States, with at least one in 47 of the 50 states.”

Natural building uses locally sourced materials to construct affordable, sustainable, environmentally friendly structures. The home will be outfitted with all the modern appliances used in traditional construction.

“Basically, every appliance in the building will run on electricity that comes from the solar panels on the roof,” Starks says. “It will still be tied into Delmarva Power in case of a cloudy day, but the electric bill should be around $10 a month.”

And the home will be especially affordable because it is so inexpensive to build. Stark is working with social service organization Family Promise to select an appropriate family to live there. They will need to qualify for a mortgage through the Federal Housing Administration.

“Their mortgage payment should be between $300 to $400 per month,” says Stark, “which is a lot less than they’d be paying if they found a rental unit.” â€‹

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