Ticking Time Bomb

Straw bale houses PDF Print E-mail
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Straw has been used as a building material for over a millennium, and it's not hard to see why - warm, renewable, plentiful and more durable than you might think if used right.

Celtic roundhouses are a fine historical example of how the material can be used to great effect in houses that have stood the test of time with a quiet ease. They are effortlessly functional, and their shape is reminiscent of the  Cambridgeshire Eco Home that was inspired by these building techniques.

Straw is just as renewable and sustainable today as it was all those years ago. It's also incredibly versatile.

Kester Wilkinson's home near Nottingham demonstrates this very well indeed. It uses straw bales instead of traditional brick and was built only four years ago.'I went on a course for four days about straw bale houses,' says Kester. 'The advantage is that it's very, very accessible.

You can just stack bales up and you can build a wall.' Kester is also quick to point out that people with only a limited knowledge of building can successfully build a straw bale house.It took just 12 months to build this house of straw, and it was a real community effort on the part of Kester and his friends.

The bales are coated with clay and lime plaster which seal in all that rustic charm.Living in a straw house feels totally different to a brick home. There are no sharp edges due to the nature of the building techniques, only lovely organic lines everywhere you look. Both the plaster and paint are breathable.

This makes for a pleasant environment that will rarely feel too humid or too dry, and it remains remarkably warm inside all winter long.Straw bale building courses are available throughout the country, but before you rush in there are some drawbacks to the material that should be understood.Believe it or not, fire is not the major enemy. Instead, water will ruin a straw house.

If water gets inside a bale then it will rot no matter what you do. Fortunately, as Kester pointed out, they are accessible and easily replaced, as well as being cheap. To prevent rotting, make sure your bales are coated in waterproof material.

And don't worry about rodents eating all of your walls! Mice and rats like hay, not straw. However, straw does make excellent bedding for the little critters so if you've got tiny holes everywhere then make sure to plug them all up and keep the mice at bay.If you thought these ancient methods were all a bit outdated and simple then you'd be wrong.

A house in London has entire walls made from straw, and in this case they are left on show for everybody to see. Inside, you'd never know.People are a little afraid of taking the plunge with materials like straw bale, but in truth it is a green, clean and cheap way of building a home. It costs about half of the bricks and mortar equivalent, and if kept dry can even outlast them!

Then of course there's the bonus that you don't need to insulate straw walls.We're only just relearning how to use straw bales in modern building. It is an ancient material that has consistently proved itself through the ages. While it might have its disadvantages, you won't find anything more sustainable. We just need to learn to be a bit more creative and a bit less scared to try something new.

Use it right and no amount of huffing and puffing will blow your house in.

 
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