Straw houses are to be offered on the UK open market for the first time.
University of Bath – the brains behind the engineering research project – say that the material could help to sustainably meet housing demand.
Researchers from the University worked alongside specialist architectural firm Modcell and believe this development could move building with straw from a niche technique for the green-fingered, to one suitable for the wider market.
The new houses in Bristol are clad with brick to fit in with the other houses on the street, but their fabricated walls are timber framed and filled with straw bales.
“I think there’s a lot of misconception about using straw – stories about the three little pigs and the big bad wolf, concerns about fire resistance etc,” says Professor Pete Walker from the University of Bath.
Straw is usually used for animal bedding and is the leftover stalks from cereal crops. According to the Agricultural and Horticultural Development Board, just under four million tonnes of this leftover straw is produced every year by UK farmers.
It takes about seven tonnes of straw to build a three-bedroom house with this pre-fabrication method, meaning there is potential to grow the material for more than half a million new homes every year in British fields.
Professor Walker and his colleagues systematically tested and refined the technology as part of the EU-funded project, including testing its structural, weight-bearing properties and its thermal insulation, and believe it be a robust and safe form of construction.
“(Straw is) also a very efficient insulator, so they should reduce energy bills by as much as 90% compared to other houses around this site,” Walker added.
Although these are not the first homes in the UK to be built using straw bales, they are believed to be the first to be built for any buyer on the open market.
“Previously, you’d have a client in place who knew they wanted a straw bale construction, and they would commission us to deliver that,” explains Craig White, director of Modcell, the architectural firm involved in the project.
“I think it’s a very exciting time for this building technology. And the more we can build out of renewable materials like straw and timber, the less carbon will be in the atmosphere, so we can reduce climate change effects,” adds White.
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