Straw Bale Buildings for the rural areas in Kyrgyzstan

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During a project for improving the insulation of rural buildings in Kyrgyzstan in 2002, the need to introduce energy efficient building methods into new construction was recognised. The course was led by the IEBau (Institute of Energy in Building of the University of Applied Sciences, Northwestern Switzerland) in the framework of a research partnership financed by KFPE (Commission for Research Partnerships with Developing Countries) and the Kyrgyz State University (KSUCTA) in Bishkek, in close collaboration with CAMP (Central Asian Mountains Partnership). Therefore, the IEBau established a proposal for the introduction, testing and adaptation of non-load bearing straw bale building methods in Kyrgyzstan. The project implementation comprised three elements: 1) the construction of a pilot straw bale building for demonstration purposes; 2) the organisation of a theoretical and practical course on straw bale construction; and 3) the creation and support of a local Centre for Energy Efficient Buildings.

Technology, Operations and Maintenance

To demonstrate building design and construction methods for straw bale insulation, a community hall was built in the village of Tschardi Su, located approximately 70 km from Bishkek. The construction was undertaken in collaboration with village residents and students under the supervision of Oekofacta GmbH, a Swiss consultant agency who had previously led retrofitting projects in the area. The building, which consists of a meeting hall and a small lavatory, was erected in three months using a non-load bearing building method. This means that the straw bales have an insulating function while the roof loads are supported by a timber stud construction. Furthermore, diagonally mounted stabilisation slats ensure the stability of the structure against horizontal loads. The community hall consisted of two rooms: an assembly room of 69 m2 and a lavatory of 12 m2. The walls were double plastered on both sides: a 3 cm thick earth plaster was applied on a thinner and unsolidified plaster basis and this was then topped with a lime finish on the exterior wall in order to protect the wall from weather conditions. The floor was made of aerated concrete, while the roof consisted of a simple wood binder construction with a trapezoidal sheet metal cover. To prevent moisture rising from the soil to the wall, bituminous felt was laid between the concrete base and the wall base. The south facing windows were double-glazed. Even though the construction faced various difficulties due to a lack of know-how and relevant tools, the building was successfully constructed and well appreciated by the local population. The overall building process lasted three months (July to October) and involved six students and three villagers. To ensure the maintenance of the buildings, one of the village residents was elected and CAMP compiled a manual on the proper use of the building structure with the support of KSUCTA and the Oekofacta GmbH.

Financial Issues and Management

In addition to the actual construction, another important part of the project was the theoretical and practical training. This consisted of lectures on passive solar architecture and straw bale construction. These were followed by a workshop on the site of the almost completed demonstration building. The event provided the opportunity for the technology to be introduced to a wider audience of about 50 students and tutors from KSUCTA and a delegation from TTU (Tajik Technical University) of Dushanbe, Tajikistan. The successful construction of the new and better-insulated buildings, as well as the positive reaction to these energy efficient buildings by the local population and authorities, also encouraged the creation of an autonomous centre for research and development of these technologies. This centre, which was established in 2005 in the form of a foundation, was named CEEBA (Centre for Energy Efficient Building in Central Asia) and involved some of the KSUCTA students who participated in the construction of the prototypes and training courses. Since then, CEEBA has successfully retrofitted several buildings and built new passive solar buildings for different organisations; for example a new vestry with straw insulation for the village of Tshormoksarkoni Tadjik in Tajikistan commissioned by the IEBau.

Environmental & Social Issues

The straw insulation has led to a significant reduction in the consumption of heating wood and dung. Families now only spend between 15% and 20% of their income on energy, which is far less than before. Additionally, temperatures inside the buildings do not drop to less than 10 - 14 C° and sometimes high temperatures of up to 25 C° are reached in the winter, which is a significant improvement compared to uninsulated buildings. The inhabitants are very satisfied with these results.

Results & Impacts

The project successfully demonstrated the benefits of sustainable insulation in the village of Al Bulak. Additionally, the positive feedback from users and students led to the creation of a teaching and information centre in the field of energy efficient building methods.


The project in Batken, as well as other building projects in which participants from previous workshops took the role of course leaders, demonstrated that a need for sustainable and affordable insulation exists and that the technology fits the local need. Therefore, these technologies (insulation techniques and straw bale buildings) should be further disseminated within the region and this project could also be replicated in the mountainous areas. In addition, knowledge transfer to small and medium sized enterprises should be supported in order to establish long-term relationships that could, at a later stage, lead to new economic partnerships.

Lessons learned

The most difficult part of the project was the creation of a local technical centre for energy efficient building. The practical and project oriented approach, linked to a comprehesive marketing strategy, proved to be unusual for the local partners from KSUCTA. However, the establishment of the centre for energy efficient buildings was finally achieved with support of Prof. Boronbaev and the participation of CAMP. The "Centre for Energy Efficient Buildings – Central Asia“ (CEEBA) was founded with members from KGUSTA and CAMP in its council. The centre has since successfully achieved a number of projects for different organisations, such as the insulation and new construction workshops in Tajikistan in cooperation with IEBau and TTU.