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The Future’s Made Of Straw
Green Futures, 29 May 09

By Anna Pigott

North Kesteven District Council in Lincolnshire is to become the first local authority in the UK to use straw bales to construct social housing, when they begin a pilot project of two semi-detached properties in West Grove, Martin, this May.

The bales will provide the main structure of the three-bedroom homes, which are described by the council as “typical, affordable, council houses”. But there’s nothing typical about the amount of energy they’ll save: swapping bricks for straw will increase insulation by up to three times more than building regulations require, so these houses won’t need heating systems. They’re anticipated to cost less too: the council has budgeted £110,000 per house – £20,000 less than the equivalent brick-build. And in the future, thanks to the experience gained through this project, future costs could be lower still.

The houses are designed by Amazonails, who are also behind the country’s first two-storey straw bale home, recently built in Somerset [see Landmark for straw]. Manager Emma Appleton believes straw bale homes could be part of the answer to housing shortages. They are simple to construct, easy to modify and can last upwards of 200 years. “We get the impression that other UK councils are certainly interested in using straw bales, but are waiting to see how North Kesteven gets on.”

In order to generate capacity and skills for any future straw bale projects in the area, the council will select and train a local contractor for the job, and residents and organisations will be invited to watch the building process. Once completed, in approximately six months’ time, potential tenants will apply through the normal council housing allocation scheme.

This piece originally appeared in Green Futures. Green Futures is published by Forum for the Future, one of the leading magazines on environmental solutions and sustainable futures. Its aim is to demonstrate that a sustainable future is both practical and desirable – and can be profitable, too.

Photo credit: Flickr/fishermansdaughter, Creative Commons License.

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I first saw this in 1977 as a prototype wall behind a passive, solar builder's office with intersections, windows, etc. For many years there have been courses in bale houses , notably in Boulder, Colorado. One note: This type of house is highly susceptible to termites. However, if the straw is pretreated the bales with boric acid' termites won't be a problem.
Love, Dad

Posted by: GrayK on 31 May 09

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