Houses made of straw may sound like something out of a fairy tale, but a new development in Bristol shows that they could help the UK meet its carbon reduction targets.
The country’s first affordable straw homes, which went on sale last week, are remarkably efficient: their walls filled with straw bales provide a level of insulation that is three times greater than required by current UK building regulations. Because of this, the new homes cost up to 90% less to keep warm.
The seven Bristol townhouses were built by developers Connolly and Callaghan following an engineering research project led by the University of Bath. They are constructed with 3.2m by 2.9m ModCell straw panels in an airtight design, with an engineered timber frame enclosing the compressed straw bale insulation.
*According to the university*, the super-insulated walls and triple-glazed windows ensure that the new houses will need significantly less conventional heating.
The design of the efficient homes has received BM Trada’s Q mark certification, which means that developers and house buyers can insure and secure mortgages against homes, schools and offices built using this sustainable green building construction method.
The construction sector must reduce its energy consumption by 50% and its carbon emissions by 80% by 2050, so radical changes are needed to the way we approach house building, said Professor Pete Walker, head of the Department of Architecture & Civil Engineering at the University of Bath, who led the research project. As a construction material straw is a low-cost and widely available food co-product that offers real potential for ultra-low carbon housing throughout the UK. Building with straw could be a critical point in our trajectory towards a low-carbon future.