News

Straw construction system wins top innovation award

19 March 2014

The world’s first system for making entire buildings out of prefabricated straw-filled panels has taken first prize in the Chartered Institute of Building’s Innovation and Research Awards.

The system, developed by British firm ModCell, uses timber to frame 3m x 3.2m panels filled with straw. Lime render is then sprayed on the outside to weatherproof the panel.

The panels fit together to create an airtight skin that can include external and internal walls, and even roofs. They can be used to meet the demanding Passivhaus standards.

Judges observed that straw is a prime green material with high thermal performance, that also sequesters carbon from the atmosphere.

A number of straw buildings have been completed, including a learning centre at Hayesfield Girls’ School in Bath, England and a 20-dwelling cooperative housing development in Leeds, called LILAC.

A number of straw buildings have been completed, including a 20-dwelling cooperative housing development in Leeds, called LILAC

Another striking innovation characterises the ModCell approach: “flying factories”.

Panels can be made in a central manufacturing facility, or they can be produced at a temporary plant – in an agricultural building, for example – set up within 25 miles of the site, and which uses local labour and straw.

The usual lead-in time is 12-16 weeks from the initial order. It also helps that the panels, if assembled correctly, is faster than traditional methods, and produce no waste.

The research necessary to develop this was not cheap. About £2.5m has been spent so far, thanks in part to help from the EU’s Eco innovation Fund, the UK’s Department for Business, Innovation & Skills, Carbon Connections and the Technology Strategy Board.

More results for the awards can be viewed here.