Timber Frames To Be Laid For 'Straw Bale' Homes
|This week marks the start of the timber frames being laid for the 'Straw Bale' houses in High Ongar with the straw, which is currently being harvested, set to arrive in September.
Today, 20 August, Hastoe will start filming the building process as a time lapse to keep record of the different stages and help other housing providers learn about what is involved in a project like this.
These four innovative ‘Straw Bale’ houses are being built at Millfield, High Ongar, following a planning decision by Epping Forest District Council. This will be the first development of Straw Bale housing to be built in Britain by a housing association.
Two 2-bedroom and two 3-bedroom houses are being developed by Hastoe in partnership with Epping Forest District Council, on former Council-owned land. The land was transferred to Hastoe at a discounted price, and the Government’s Homes and Communities Agency (HCA) is contributing a grant of £92,000 towards the building costs. The properties are being developed by DCH, a local contractor based in Coggeshall (details to be added) and work will start within the next couple of weeks. The four houses will be completed in March 2013 and will be let at affordable rents to families on the Council’s Housing Register.
There are a number of benefits of using straw bales to build the houses. In particular, whilst the costs of construction are similar to the costs of conventional construction, houses constructed of straw bales need almost no conventional heating due to their exceptionally high insulating properties. The tenants will benefit from fuel costs around 85% cheaper than the average costs for heating similar homes of traditional construction.
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Structural parts of the houses, such as the walls, will be built using timber frames, in-filled with the straw bales. The walls will be covered externally, with a lime render. The character of straw bales houses will suit the rural location of the site at Millfield, overlooking farmers’ fields. With clay tile roofs the houses will incorporate as many natural materials as possible and will have a slightly rustic quality, although overall they will have the appearance of conventional homes. The timber porches will be roofed with sedum plants.
Since the straw absorbs carbon dioxide as it is growing, it is widely accepted that buildings of this type of construction have a low, zero or even negative carbon footprint. When complete, the high level of energy efficiency will reduce CO2 emissions by around 60%, compared to conventionally-built homes.
The straw bales used for construction are a sustainable by-product of farming, and every effort will be made to source the bales locally. Tests on other straw bale structures by the University of Bath have established that they are strong enough to withstand hurricane force winds up to 120mph - enough to defy the huff and puff of any big bad wolf! They also have a fire rating at least double that required by Building Regulations.
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