|29 August 2016|

UK

By Elizabeth McQuillan

Cheap and easy to grow, straw is a natural commodity that has been utilized since the Iron Age to provide shelter. Archeologists found that the walls of roundhouses were made of wattle support and daub, the daub composed of a mixture of clay, straw and animal dung, and made for a very effective and insulated structure.

A crack team at the University of Bath’s Department of Architecture & Civil Engineering have been researching straw as a viable and safe building material for over a decade, and now affordable straw housing is a reality.

After a great deal of research, the team collaborated with ModCell Ltd to develop prefabricated straw bale cladding panels. These building panels underwent strict testing to investigate the structural and durability aspects of the straw. A prototype house was built on campus and subjected to fire and flood to test its suitability for housing. Not only was the structure weatherproof, but further data collected from ModCell built homes has shown a massive reduction in energy usage of up to 90%.

All the materials used in ModCell (straw, timber and lime) can be locally sourced, which results in the carbon footprint of a mouse. The company also claims that all panels are made within mobile factories that will sit within a fifteen-mile radius of the construction site.

The result is an innovative collaboration between science and business that will make large-scale, carbon-negative housing a reality, and link affordable housing with stellar eco-credentials. The wolf can huff and puff all he wants, but the little pigs that live in this straw house can rest easy.