Page last updated at 06:39 GMT, Thursday, 19 November 2009

House of straw passes fire test

House built from pre-fabricated straw-bale and hemp panels
The house will be monitored over a year to assess its performance

A house built from straw-bales and panels of hemp has passed an industry standard fire safety test which exposed it to temperatures above 1,000C.

BaleHaus@Bath is part of a new research project at the University of Bath into how renewable building materials can be used for homes of the future.

The house is made from prefabricated cells of timber filled with straw or hemp, rendered with a lime-based coat.

TV presenter Kevin McCloud will officially open the straw house later.

During the fire resistance test for non-loadbearing elements, the panel had to withstand heat for more than 30 minutes.

Eco-friendly

After more than two hours it had still not failed.

A panel had previously been put through structural tests for loadbearing elements and had passed.

Researchers Dr Katharine Beadle and Christopher Gross, from the University's Building Research Establishment Centre in Innovative Construction Materials, will be monitoring the house for a year.

They will be checking its insulating properties, humidity levels, air tightness and sound insulation qualities to assess the performance of straw and hemp as building materials.

The technology was used last year by McCloud to build an eco-friendly house in six days for the Grand Designs Live exhibition.

"I expect the results will show people that we can minimise the use of highly processed materials in building and genuinely make use of such sustainable building materials," he said.

"It's vital that we encourage people to recycle, insulate and minimise the use of fossil fuels to keep our buildings warm."

The ModCell BaleHaus system has been created by White Design in Bristol and Integral Structural Design in Bath.



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