How building homes out of straw could be the way of the future

Specialist architectural company, Modcell have been working with engineering researchers from the University of Bath and, as a result of their project, have announced that having straw walls in new-build houses could be a great way of sustainably meeting housing demand. The research has involved a great deal of testing of the straw-wall technology and some very positive results have been found regarding its thermal insulation abilities and its structural and weight-bearing properties. The project has shown straw to be an excellent and efficient insulator and suggests that energy bills could be reduced by as much as 90% compared to houses constructed in more traditional ways. Straw is most commonly used for animal bedding, but it is actually the leftover stalks from cereal crops. Around 4 million tonnes of leftover straw is produced in the UK every year and it takes approximately 7 tonnes to build a typical 3 bedroom home. Some example homes using this method have been built in Bristol on a street where the other houses are of a standard brick construction. The walls in the specially-constructed homes are prefabricated with a timber frame, filled with straw bales and then encased in wooden boards. The houses have a brick cladding on the front so that they blend in with the other buildings on the street. Straw bale construction is not a new phenomenon but it usually occurs when a client specifically commissions it to be done. Until now, it has not been a building method that is widely used, however, the houses that have been built in Bristol are the first homes with straw walls to be sold on the open market. It’s is hoped that by using more renewable materials in the construction of homes, it will be easier to meet housing demand, it is more beneficial to the environment and people may well have lower heating bills. Article by Benjamin Clarke
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