Straw houses go on sale

The first straw houses in the UK have been put up for sale in the open market this week in Bristol, and could cut heating bills by 90 per cent.

The seven Bristol townhouses use straw panels, in which an engineered timber frame encloses the compressed straw bale insulation, needing significantly less conventional heating.

The homes were designed by a team of researchers from the University of Bath’s Department of Architecture and Civil Engineering.

“The construction sector must reduce its energy consumption by 50 per cent and its carbon emissions by 80 per cent by 2050, so radical changes are needed to the way we approach house building,” Professor Pete Walker, head of the department, said.

Compared with current UK building regulations, the straw walls, manufactured by specialist architectural firm Modcell, could provide three times greater insulation, with fuel costs anticipated to fall by 90 per cent. The homes are expected to be an affordable alternative to the equivalent brick-house, costing less than the average house to buy.

“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,” Walker said.

Straw has been an uncertified construction material up until recently, but the new factory-built straw panel design developed at the University of Bath has received BM Trada’s Q mark certification.

To receive the certification researchers tested the straw panel’s energy efficiency, fire safety, durability and weather-resilience, including exposing the panels to heavy rain and extreme temperatures ranging from -20 to 50 degrees Celsius.

Developers and house buyers can now insure and secure mortgages against homes, schools and offices built using this sustainable construction method.

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