Building with Straw is Building Green. Everyone knows that to ensure a sustainable future for the earth we have to do more than household recycling. One way of doing this is to seriously rethink how we go about building. When the actual making of building materials release tons of carbon into the atmosphere we have to ask whether there are alternatives.
Straw is a Viable Alternative. Because it is already a natural waste product from the harvest, the production and transport implications of straw are miniscule. What’s more, while the wheat was growing it was actually taking in carbon dioxide. This means that straw buildings can easily have a zero or even negative carbon footprint. See RIBA Briefing Sheet.
Council houses have already been made from straw bales in Kesteven, Lincolnshire, and in September 2013 more social housing was built in High Ongar, Essex. The UK alone produces 4 million tons of surplus straw every year – enough for 250,000 homes. Lime and clay are also significantly lighter on the environment than the cement-based products which have been used so unquestioningly in the past.
Straw is a Super Insulator. Tests on the Kesteven council houses showed that they used about a third of the energy costs for heating and hot water than standard UK homes. A well-made straw bale house can be air-tight to the highest standards – and this also means a minimum of noise leakage, which is a real consideration for a community hall in a residential area.
Showing the Way in Tulse Hill. Our intention is to contribute to a greener future by making a building that shows the way. It won’t be filled with every latest eco-gadget, although we do hope to install solar panels. It won’t be the first straw-bale community hall in the UK, but we believe it will be the first straw-bale church hall. We hope that part of our legacy will be that of the inspiration and education of others who come after us.