This week houses made of straw went on the open market for the first time. A row of seven straw houses in Bristol have now become the first to secure building certification which makes them eligible for a standard mortgage. The properties, consisting of two and three-bedrooms, each use more than seven tonnes of straw and are said to reduce heating costs significantly in comparison to an average brick house.
The homes are to be completed this April but went on the open market this week priced between £220,000 and £240,000.
Pete Walker, a professor from the University of Bath, led the project and he has hailed straw as the future of building.
He stressed that there are a lot of misconceptions about using straw to build properties and that its benefits are simple due to its relatively low price and widely available nature.
“Building with straw could be a critical point in our trajectory towards a low-carbon future,” he said.
The houses, located in Shirehampton in Bristol, are being constructed and developed by Connolly and Callaghan.
The walls in the properties are as thick as an average bale of straw and will be framed in timber and encased in wooden boards.
Moreover, as a replacement for plaster board, compressed straw board will line the walls throughout the houses.
Once built, the terraced houses will be clad in brick and therefore will look the same as all the other properties in the same street, the developers have confirmed.
However, to act as a reminder of their remarkable construction, a ‘truth window’ where a section of straw wall will be visible through a window will remain in each property.
Although these are not the first houses in the UK to be built using straw bales, they are the first to be built for any buyer on the open market.
Professor Walker, who has spent ten years researching the design, added: “First and foremost the work has demonstrated that straw bales create safe, durable and affordable houses.
“They make contributions to reducing fuel poverty and make significant contributions to reducing energy bills of building occupants.
“There are wider benefits. Buildings contribute around 50 per cent of the carbon emissions in this country.
“By producing lower carbon buildings – buildings such as straw bales and other techniques – can help the government meet its international targets of reducing carbon emissions by 80 per cent by 2015.”
Walker also says that there is potential to grow the material for more than half a million new homes every year in British fields.
Discussing the straw homes of the past, Craig White, director of Modcell, the architectural firm involved in the project, said: “Previously, you’d have a client in place, they knew they wanted a straw bale construction, and they would commission us to deliver that.
“These are the first ones being built speculatively, for the open market. I think it’s a very exciting time for this building technology.
“And the more we can build out of renewable materials like straw and timber, the less carbon will be in the atmosphere, so we can reduce climate change effects.”