Straw houses could be future of property building

The crop used for the straw can be grown locally, and because it absorbs carbon dioxide as it grows, buildings made from it can be seen as having zero, or even a negative carbon footprint.

Also, due to its high insulating properties, houses made of straw bales need almost no conventional heating, keeping running costs low and minimising environmental impact.

The research team will be assessing straw bales and hemp as building materials so that they can be used more widely in the building industry for housing, helping the UK achieve its targets for reducing carbon emissions.

The two storey BaleHaus to be built on campus will be made using "ModCell" – pre-fabricated panels consisting of a wooden structural frame infilled with straw bales or hemp and rendered with a breathable lime-based system.

ModCell is the creation of White Design in Bristol and Integral Structural Design in Bath. Other partners on the research project are Agrifibre Technologies, Lime Technology, Eurban, the Centre for Window & Cladding Technology and Willmott Dixon.

Some of the building has already appeared in the media spotlight. Last year the team helped Kevin McCloud, presenter of Channel 4’s Grand Designs programme, to build an eco-friendly house in six days using ModCell panels for the Grand Designs Live exhibition.

All the wall panels used for the ground floor of the Grand Designs house are being reused for the BaleHaus at Bath.

Professor Pete Walker, Director of the BRE Centre in Innovative Construction Materials at the University of Bath, said: "Up to this point straw bales have not really been seen as a credible building material by much of the industry, even though straw has always been used in building for centuries, and straw bales have been used for about 100 years.

"Straw bales are an agricultural by-product and the material can be re-grown so is totally sustainable and renewable. The straw can be grown on a farm that is local to the construction site which saves on transport and minimises the carbon footprint of the building.

"Standard bales are 450mm thick and provide very high levels of insulation so you need very little additional heating."

The BaleHaus at Bath, due to be completed in the late summer, will be monitored for a year for its insulating properties, humidity levels, air tightness and sound insulation qualities.

Dr Katharine Beadle, the principle researcher on the project, explained: "We’re putting sensors into the walls to monitor temperature and humidity levels, and using technology to simulate the heat and moisture generated by people."

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0 thoughts on “Straw houses could be future of property building

  1. lucy merrifield

    we are currently in the middle of a straw bale house build. we think it will be one of the first straw bale built houses which is mobile. It is 60ft by 20ft, reclaimed metal box section for the frame, run on solar and wind energy ONLY, indoor compost toilet, straw bale infill walls, cedar shingle roof, recliamed floorboards and windows throughout, and much more…. one of our aims is to recyle, recliam or have sustainable materials for the build.