Texas company wants to sell straw houses to Iraqis

Dallas Morning News:

Suicide bombings and the threat of civil war are scaring most companies away from Iraq, but not tiny Durra Building Systems.

From its base in this small farming community northeast of Dallas, Durra, along with its sister company in Australia, is planning to ship an affordable housing kit to Baghdad within a month.

It hopes to capitalize on a housing shortage in Iraq estimated at 1.4 million units.


Though Durra is trying to sell its housing kits in Iraq, its main business is manufacturing movie theater walls made out of panels of wheat straw, which have been proven to block all kinds of sounds.

Its walls can be found at theaters around the country, including one in Greenville.

But the wheat-straw panels can also be used to build houses, schools, emergency shelters and other facilities.

The company is hoping its housing kits will catch on in developing countries such as Iraq.

To get into the Iraq market, Durra and Ortech plan to ship a kit for a 600-square-foot house to architect Sam Kubba in Baghdad.


Durra's housing kits consist of metal frames and the panels made of wheat straw, the stalks of wheat left over after farmers extract the kernels.

Durra buys wheat straw from farmers within a 50-mile radius of its plant, a yellow metal building surrounded by wheat fields.

Farmers used to burn the straw, but now most plow it back into the soil because of environmental regulations.

Inside Durra's plant, towering bales of wheat straw are stacked in one corner. A machine running the length of the building compresses the straw into panels using extreme pressure and temperatures of 350 and 425 degrees. The process activates the straw's resins, its natural sugars, which bond the fibers together.

Then Durra's machines apply a moisture-resistant liner paper over and around the panels using a specially formulated water-based glue.

The panels meet fire safety and mold standards, can withstand insects and offer significant environmental benefits.


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