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University has grand designs to build a house of straw

Could straw houses be the buildings of the future?

That's what researchers at the University of Bath will be testing this summer by constructing a "BaleHaus" made of prefabricated straw bale and hemp cladding panels on campus.

And people around the world will be able to watch its progress online via "Strawcam" from Monday 20 July at: - part of a site which will also feature blogs, videos, photos and lots of other information about the project.

Straw is the ultimate environmentally-friendly building material since it is renewable and is a by-product of farming.

The crop used for the straw can be grown locally, and because it absorbs carbon dioxide as it grows, buildings made from it can be seen as having zero, or even a negative carbon footprint.

Also, due to its high insulating properties, houses made of straw bales need almost no conventional heating, keeping running costs low and minimising environmental impact.

The research team will be assessing straw bales and hemp as building materials so that they can be used more widely in the building industry for housing, helping the UK achieve its targets for reducing carbon emissions.

The two storey BaleHaus to be built on campus will be made using 'ModCell' - pre-fabricated panels consisting of a wooden structural frame infilled with straw bales or hemp and rendered with a breathable lime-based system.

ModCell is the creation of White Design in Bristol and Integral Structural Design in Bath. Other partners on the research project are Agrifibre Technologies, Lime Technology, Eurban, the Centre for Window & Cladding Technology and Willmott Dixon.

Some of the building has already appeared in the media spotlight. Last year the team helped Kevin McCloud, presenter of Channel 4's Grand Designs programme, to build an eco-friendly house in six days u

Contact: Vicky Just
University of Bath

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