Thursday, 11 October 2007

Straw bale auction rooms nearing completion

As an auctioneer and a Green Party activist, I am delighted to post this report from Green Building Magazine.

Straw bale auction rooms nearing completion.

The main structure of the largest straw bale building in the UK is nearing completion near Stansted airport. Pioneers of straw bale building in the UK, amazonails of Todmorden, West Yorkshire, are now completing the straw bale walls of the 1,100 sq m (11,800 sq ft) auction room and offices.

The design, with straw bales infilling a timber frame, is an advance on conventional timber-frame buildings and is quicker to build. Workers from amazonails will have spent three weeks camping at the site building the straw bale walls when the main structure is completed this coming weekend, the cedar shingle roof being supported above the building on timber uprights while the walls were filled in.

The construction process has also been used for training future straw bale constructors, this following an amazonails tradition in which people wanting to build their own straw bale home learn while they build, under instruction from experts from amazonails.

The building will provide new auction rooms and offices for Sworders Fine Art and Antique Auctioneers, of Stansted Mountfitchet, Essex. The building as a whole was designed by Robert Ward-Booth FRICS, a partner in G E Sworder & Sons. It incorporates solar heating, a bio-fuel boiler and water is harvested from the roof.

Barbara Jones, Executive Director of amazonails says: “This building demonstrates the amazing potential of straw bale buildings. They not only offer the possibility of exciting, eco-friendly homes; working commercial buildings can also benefit from the advantages of this kind of building while helping to lessen the consequences of climate change. The thermal efficiency of straw bale walls means that long term running costs can be much lower than other types of building and the dependence on fossil fuels can be reduced”.

This new commercial building should help dispel many myths about building with straw when done correctly. There are no problems with obtaining planning permission; such buildings are at least as fire safe as conventional buildings; and they will endure as long as any well-maintained building using bricks and mortar.

Furthermore, the heat insulation properties of straw bale walls are twice as good as the best alternative materials on the market.
The building is due to be structurally complete in October and it will be fitted out and occupied in the first quarter of next year.

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