Straw houses could be the key to a low-carbon future

A row of two and three bed, soon-to-be-completed homes in Bristol are on the market for between £220,000 and £240,000. Constructed from straw, these homes are early examples of something which has the potential to be the next big innovation in the property world.

“I think there’s a lot of misconceptions about using straw,” says Professor Pete Walker from the University of Bath. “Stories about the three little pigs and the big bad wolf, concerns about fire resistance… As a construction material, straw is a low-cost and widely available food co-product that offers real potential for ultra-low carbon housing throughout the UK. Building with straw could be a critical point in our trajectory towards a low-carbon future. The great thing about the houses is that they are affordable and in addition the energy costs will be extremely low – under £100 a year.”

Building a house from straw costs between 15 and 20 per cent less than regular construction, can lower heating bills by up to 70 per cent, and may even be able to help the government meet its carbon emission reduction targets. All by simply using the tonnes upon tonnes of leftover straw produced by British agriculture each year.

“Construction with straw is a financially viable option and it is a sustainably wise route to go down,” says architectural designer Charlie Luxton. “We need to start learning to build in different ways and to explore other alternatives. Whether you are building family homes or properties for retirees, straw is an ideal material… It will not be the main way of building, but it will definitely be considered as a viable option as it is locking away carbon emissions.”

With enough straw in the North of England alone to build approximately 20,000 new properties, at a considerably cheaper rate than regular homes, we could well be on our way out of this housing crisis – as long as they’re not easily blown down.