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New Prototype Home That’s Heated & Cooled Entirely By Fermenting Straw

A new prototype home that is heated and cooled entirely through the action of fermenting straw has been created by researchers at Japan’s Waseda University.

It might sound like a strange idea — or perhaps even unbelievable — but the concept has actually been around for a couple of decades now, and has been utilized quite effectively in the past. For that matter, I can think just offhand of at least one person that I know who runs the pipes from their well through their composting setup in order to warm the water up some before making it to his faucets. Same concept I guess, just on a larger, more-comprehensive scale.

Image Credit: © Waseda University

Image Credit: © Waseda University

The new home is based around the utilization of a low-odor composting technique known as “bokashi” — which, when directly translated, means “fermented organic matter.” Composting straw is simply placed into acrylic boxes that make up the house’s walls, where the fermentation process produces a lot of heat — up to 86 degrees Fahrenheit, to be exact.

The heating effect only lasts for roughly 4 weeks, though, so the composting matter needs to be replaced roughly that often in order to keep the heating effect going strong — not that you need it for the full year, though.

Image Credit: © Waseda University

Image Credit: © Waseda University

TreeHugger provides more:

Designed by student designers Masaki Ogasawara, Keisuke Tsukada and Erika Mikami, the “Recipe to Live” house is located in Taiki-cho town on Hokkaido island, a place that is known for its dairy farms (and lots of locally-made straw).

In the summer, straw will dry inside transparent window shelving which act as “heat shield panels,” thus releasing moisture that will help cool the ambient temperature. During winter, the fermenting straw will give off heat thanks to the microbial process that gradually breaks down the organic matter.

While the composting straw does need to be replaced at least a few times every year, when you compare that to the cost-savings on fuel for heating, it’s really not all that bad. And as a plus it does keep you well-stocked with good quality compost. 🙂

You can find out more about the house, as well as others, at LIXIL (Warning: mostly in Japanese).


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Written By

James Ayre's background is predominantly in geopolitics and history, but he has an obsessive interest in pretty much everything. After an early life spent in the Imperial Free City of Dortmund, James followed the river Ruhr to Cofbuokheim, where he attended the University of Astnide. And where he also briefly considered entering the coal mining business. He currently writes for a living, on a broad variety of subjects, ranging from science, to politics, to military history, to renewable energy.

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