We know that the first thing you’re thinking when you read the headline is most likely going to be related to a popular story of a few little piggies and a certain wolf having the ability to blow their houses down with relative ease. Knowing the end result of said story won’t assist in striking confidence into the hearts of any sceptics upon hearing the news that a team behind a superb new project have built a collection of homes made out of straw. We’re here to assure the sceptics and non-believers will soon be changing their opinion.
The team of bright-forward thinking individuals have said that the houses, which have been built from straw material, could be the key to helping our collective goal of sustainability as well as aiding the ever-increasing housing demand in the UK.
These interesting and exciting new homes are the result of an engineering research project led by the University of Bath.
The team, who also collaborated with Modcell, a specialist architectural company, says this development shouldn’t just be of interest of those who have a keen interest in sustainability and ecological themes. Instead they want to create a shift in thinking to move building with straw on to the wider market in the future so that everyone can reaps the rewards of its benefits.
One of these typical straw-based three-bedroom homes would use around seven tonnes of straw per house.
Currently the houses, situated on a street of traditional brick-built homes in the affluent city of Bristol, not too far from our Somerset yurts, have been clad in brick in order to fit in with their surroundings. However their prefabricated walls are made using timber frames, filled with straw bales and then encased in wooden boards.
As part of this EU-funded project, Prof Walker and his colleagues at Bath University have spent time to thoroughly test and refine the technology they have used – including testing its weight-bearing properties, its thermal insulation and structural credentials.
When speaking to the BBC Prof Walker said: “Our testing over a number of years, and our research has demonstrated that it is a robust and safe form of construction.”
He added that, since straw absorbs carbon dioxide as it grows, using it as a building material actually “locks carbon into the walls” of a building.
An interesting statistic about these revolutionary new straw houses by the Agricultural and Horticultural Development Board has stated that just under four million tonnes of leftover straw is produced every year by UK agriculture as a result of leftover stalks from cereal crops (this is what straw is), and it’s typically used for animal bedding. As a result this means there’s could be an impending initiative to grow the material for over half a million new homes every year in British fields!