Straw houses have received a bad press ever since one of the three little piggies had his home blown away by the big bad wolf, but all that has changed.
Britain’s first commercially developed straw houses went on the market last week after passing building certification that will enable prospective owners to get a mortgage and buildings insurance.
Until now houses built from straw have been the pet project of environmentalists and self-builders eager to take advantage of the many benefits of straw as a building material. Not only does it have excellent strength and insulating properties, it is eco-friendly and a lot cheaper than bricks and mortar.
Not that the casual passer-by would spot that the row of seven new homes in Shirehampton, Bristol, is built form straw. The bales, which is effectively replace breeze blocks, will be clad with bricks so the homes look the same as those in the rest of the street.
The two and three-bedroom properties, which have been put on the market for between £220,000 and £240,000, are still under construction but are expected to be ready to move into by April. The new owners will have heating costs of less than 10 per cent of an average home, at about £100 a year.
Peter Walker, of the University of Bath’s department of architecture and civil engineering, who spent ten years developing straw as a building material, and who ironically lives in a brick-built Victoria home in the city, said “First and foremost the work has demonstrated that straw bales create safe, durable and affordable houses. There’s a lot of misconception about using straw – stories about the three little pigs and the big bad wolf and concerns about fire resistance. 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.”
Although these are not the first houses in the UK to be built using straw bales, they are the first to be built for the open market. About 3.8 million tonnes of straw goes to waste every year, enough to build 500,000 homes.
To receive the certification, researchers tested energy efficiency, fire safety, durability and weather-resilience, including exposing the panels to heavy rain and extreme temperatures.
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