Over the past 10 years, Professor Pete Walker has been studying the benefits of straw to prove that it is eco-friendly, sustainable and, more importantly, a safe building material.
His collaboration with a local design company led to the development of prefabricated straw bale cladding panels which proved that straw was more than a match for bricks. In rigorous tests, the panels withstood heavy rain and extreme temperatures.
Funding from the UK government and EU followed, along with a BM Trada’s Q mark certification, which recognises quality and allows homebuyers to get mortgages and insurance for straw buildings. The design of the panels was also awarded the prestigious PassivHaus accreditation.
In 2015, the UK’s first straw eco homes went on sale in Bristol. Their compressed straw bale insulation, along with triple glazed windows, is anticipated to reduce owners’ fuel bills by as much as 90 per cent.
But the benefits go far beyond fuel bills. Concrete is the second most consumed substance after water, with cement production accounting for around five per cent of the world’s industrial CO2 emissions. Because straw absorbs CO2 as it grows, straw homes have one of the lowest carbon footprints available, with many buildings being net carbon-negative.