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Could Straw houses be the buildings of the future?
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That’s what researchers at the University of Bath, UK will be testing this summer by constructing a “BaleHaus” made of prefabricated straw bale and hemp cladding panels on campus...See Video

Straw is the ultimate environmentally-friendly building material since it is renewable and is a by-product of farming.

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.

panels of straw house lime rendering
Pre-fabricated panels consisting of a wooden structural frame infilled with straw bales or hemp
The straw bale panels are coated in a breathable lime render

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

Video
And people around the world can watch its progress online via Strawcam from Monday 20 July, 2009 . The  BaleHaus website also features blogs, videos, photos and lots of other information about the project.

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".

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.

Craig White, Director of White Design and ModCell said: “The Zero Carbon Housing challenge the industry faces is not going to be met with conventional design and materials.

“BaleHaus at Bath is an entirely new and renewable way to construct homes fit for the challenge.

“Made from natural materials that are beautiful, affordable and sustainable, BaleHaus is a living, breathing home that is cool in summer and warm in winter, helps families reduce their CO2 footprint without compromising how they choose to live their lives and sets a new and very different benchmark for sustainable homes in the 21st century.”

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Reference:
University of Bath (2009, July 16). University Has Grand Designs To Build A House Of Straw: Press Release,Photographs:University of Bath Website
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