Straw Bale Construction Gets 21st Century Take
ModCell is a British company that has come up with a very unique product that mixes pre-industrialÂ straw-bale building with a decidedly post-modern sensibility – by creating a building technique using prefabbed panels incorporating sustainable straw-bales.
But because straw bale construction is so unfamiliar to many people, researchers at the University of Bath arranged for a demonstration straw house to be outfitted with sensors to show how the technique is safe and effective: you can contact Balehaus@Bath for details.
Because straw can be grown locally and absorbs carbon dioxide as it grows, it is potentially a very sustainable building technique, so a modern take on it is needed.
So a demo building to demonstrate the efficacy of the technique was commissioned from the White Design group of Architects. Each frame containing the straw is 18″ thick and is load bearing in residential use – up to three stories. Wiring can be incorporated into any of the panels once in place.
The panels are prefabbed off-site. But not far off-site: Modcell likes to work with local farmers to use straw rather than maintaining one factory using a central fabrication plant and transporting ModCellâ„¢ Panels great distances.
So the company likes to work with local farmers to identify a source of straw and a suitable location to assemble panels, trying to keep the prefabbing within 10 miles of the construction site. By using local straw, skills and labor, they keep more of the projectâ€™s value within the local economy.
The sustainability extends to the end of life, because these panels can be easily reused or disassembled. Lime can be re-used. Straw, hemp and wood are biodegradable and can be used as biomass.
But quality does not suffer from having the prefab panels being constructed in these ‘Flying Factories’. The quality of each panel is uniform and signed off at various stages during manufacture. An alkaline lime finish makes the straw fireproof, mold resistant and breathable.The pH, moisture content and air changes from the panels ‘breathing’ prevent fungal and microbial activity.
And of course, as with all straw bale houses, the finished product is a uniquely comfortable, warm, dry, and super quiet home.