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Energy Efficiency

Published on July 21st, 2009 | by Bryan Nelson

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Straw and Hemp Houses To Be Huff-and-Puff Proof Buildings of the Future

July 21st, 2009 by  


Field of straw

Researchers from the University of Bath will be constructing a “BaleHaus” this summer made from prefabricated straw bale and hemp cladding panels.

The house will be a model for building carbon zero homes of the future. And because straw and hemp efficiently absorb carbon dioxide while they grow, the buildings made from them might even have a negative carbon footprint.

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The house is meant to be the ultimate green-friendly structure. Straw can be grown locally and, being a byproduct of farming, is renewable, biodegradable and recyclable. Hemp and straw also make good building materials due to their remarkably efficient insulating properties, which means energy needed to keep them cool or heated is minimal. Best of all, they make cheap building materials, and with the money saved due to lowered energy costs, straw and hemp homes are practical as well as efficient.

The two story BaleHaus is to be built on the University of Bath campus and will be made using prefabricated panels consisting of a wooden structural frame infilled with straw bales or hemp and rendered with a breathable lime-based system. The home will be closely monitored for a year after being built for its insulating properties, humidity levels, air tightness and sound insulation qualities.

Studies have already shown the low carbon potential of houses made of hemp. Unlike in the U.S., which is the only industrialized country which still outlaws the production of hemp, the infamous cannabis plant can be grown locally in the U.K., and its use as a building material could bring an economic boost to local agricultural communities.

Some consumers might be reminded of the fairytale, “The Three Little Pigs”, where a big bad wolf easily blows down the straw-made house of one of the pigs, and proceeds to eat him. Though in a world where the big bad wolf is global climate change, it might be straw houses that ultimately save us.

Source: ScienceDaily

Image Credit: Brian Forbes on Flickr under a CC License


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About the Author

has been making up for lost time since finishing his graduate degree in Philosophy by traveling and working to change the world. He has worked with groups like The Sierra Club, Environment America & U.S. PIRG, Environment Oregon & OSPIRG, and Progressive Future on local and national political campaigns. His environmental journalism can be found throughout the web, which also includes regular contributions to MNN.com. Between adventure and activism, he currently can be found doing freelance writing from his home in Hawaii.



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