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Straw Bale House Construction - Part 1

Updated on April 14, 2017
Ashish Dadgaa profile image

Ashish Dadgaa is a Construction Manager with 10 years of experience in the Industry. He writes about Home Improvement and maintenance.

Introduction

In recent years the construction industry is concerned due to the rising carbon emission by modern buildings and houses. The traditional houses are not only accountable for consuming natural recourses but also accountable for the larger amount of energy consumption during its lifecycle. Therefore, a significance of sustainable and energy efficient construction is booming recently, and the construction industry requires a structured approach to resolve this problem. The natural renewable straw bale construction claims that it can provide a healthy and lower embodied energy home while minimizing the carbon emission.

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What is Embodied Energy?

The embodied energy of the building material is the total energy needed in its manufacturing. It depends on the materials, which could incorporate the energy required for growing, extracting, recycling, processing, repair & maintenance and transport. The concrete, metal, and plastic are processed at a high temperature, which has highest embodied energy, and also they emit a large amount of CO2 in its manufacturing process. Currently, they are the most widely utilized building materials in the construction industry, which approximately emit two tons of CO2 per person in the world. Earlier the effects of these materials were unidentified but now each person is aware of it, thus the selection of materials should be done wisely.

The embodied energy in the standard house is frequently quoted at 100,000kwh. If the yearly energy requirement of the house is 20,000kwh, then the energy embodied in construction rapidly becomes insignificant. However, if the energy in utilization could be minimized to 5,000kwh per annum in a more house, then the embodied energy becomes the most important part of the building’s lifetime energy utilization. If 50,000kwh could be saved in the construction of houses then it would supply the energy to operate the buildings and houses for additional 10 years, considerably minimizing CO2 emissions in the process.

Current Scenario

The significance of low-impact construction is booming due to the effect of global warming and consumption of natural resources. Traditional construction not only consumes natural resources, but it is also accountable for a large amount of energy use during the manufacturing of building materials. The natural renewable material offers low-embodied energy and low-impact construction, which is the essential element of the construction industry.

Most scientists are now convinced that the earth’s climate is changing and the carbon emission needs to be minimized to stop the harmful effect of climate change. Meanwhile, the oil supply is about to reach a maximum. The oil and fossil fuels have powered the developed countries for more than 150 years by emitting greenhouse gasses. It is now the main reason for climate change. The United Kingdom has a mild climate; it has cool winters, warm summers, and rainfall throughout the year. The climate is considerably warmer than other nations of the same latitude, because of the Gulf Stream.

Fourth Assessment Report was published by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), it states that warming of the climate system is unequivocal and is caused by human actions. It anticipates that global temperature could increase between 1.1ºC to 6.4 ºC during 21st century with worse climate conditions such as heavy rain, heat waves, and droughts.

The planet’s ecosystem at present is at a crucial stage. It is being harmed by human activity and this leads to irrevocable losses of important ecosystem functions. Construction and building activities have the larger allotment in carbon emission and global resource utilization. The United Kingdom is responsible for about 25 to 40% of total energy consumption, 30% of raw material consumption, 30 to 40% of CO2 emissions, and 30 to 40% of solid waste generation.

The energy consumption of the existing buildings could be minimized by 20%, utilizing cost effective measures. A major refurbishment and new buildings show even larger potential. Newly constructed low-energy buildings use 50% less energy than existing buildings and 20% less than conventional new buildings.

The UK government has committed to minimizing the carbon emission up to 12.5% by the end of 2011. The currently published Energy White Paper designed even more challenging goals for the further reduction of carbon by the year 2020. The Royal Commission on Environmental Pollution has set out a goal for minimizing an emission by 60% by the year 2050.

In today’s construction market, there is a booming trend to minimize the impact on the environment by the construction industry. It is known as “Eco-build” or “Sustainable construction”. Eco-build construction targets to minimize the environmental impact of a building for its entire life, whilst contains to be comfortable and safe for its occupants as well as economically viable. Eco-build is mainly based on the practices of excellence, which accentuates on quality, efficiency and long-term affordability. At every stage of the lifespan of the building, it increases the comfort and quality of life and at the same time declining the negative environmental impacts. As well as this maximizes the economic sustainability of the project. When building design and constructed in a sustainable way, it reduces the energy, use of water and raw material over the whole lifespan of the building.

One element of “Eco-build” or “Sustainable construction” uses “natural building materials” such as earth, stone, and straw. They have been utilized for thousands of years to construct houses but it all has been diminished by the modern construction techniques and materials.

Whereas, straw bale construction claims that it can build a healthy and attractive house by minimizing the energy required for the both heating and construction. However, when energy supply issues and climate changes are challenging the large increase in carbon emission and energy consumption, will the straw bale buildings be part of the solution?

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© 2017 Ashish Dadgaa

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    • Ashish Dadgaa profile image
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      Ashish Dadgaa 5 months ago

      @Louise,

      Yes, these houses are warm during winter. :)

      Thanks for your comment :)

    • Coffeequeeen profile image

      Louise Powles 5 months ago from Norfolk, England

      How interesting. I've never seen a house build with straw bales before. I would imagine the house is very warm in the winter.