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It may be news likely to be greeted with scepticism by anthropomorphic pigs, but for the first time in the United Kingdom, houses made from straw are being offered on the open sales market - indeed, it may prompt some to investigate the quick sale of their existing house.

The straw houses are able to be sold this way having become eligible for standard mortgages, in contrast to the specialist loans that have long funded such eco homes, which have tended to be constructed as part of more bespoke projects. The straw houses in question are a row of seven in Bristol that have secured the building certification necessary for standard mortgage eligibility.

The leader of a project to develop and test the construction method, the University of Bath's Professor Pete Walker, said that seven tonnes of straw were required for each of the two and three bedroom properties, which also had heating costs 90% lower than the average brick house. Construction of the homes will be complete in April, with sale prices of between £220,000 and £240,000.

As Walker explained, presumably on the off-chance of some prospective homeowners' worries about any big bad wolves in the vicinity, "I think there's a lot of misconception about using straw, especially about fire resistance. As a construction material, straw is a low cost and widely available product that offers real potential for ultra low cost 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."

Each wall of the houses presently being built is just as thick as a normal bale of straw, framed in timber and encased in wooden boards. Instead of plaster board, the walls will be lined with compressed straw board, while the completed terraced houses will also be clad in brick to disguise the true nature of their construction.

The result is that the average bystander will barely be able to tell that the houses are any different to the more conventional properties elsewhere in the street - save for a 'truth window' in each house that will reveal a section of straw wall.

Such an impressive set of properties is quite the reason for many a current UK resident to be contemplating the quick sale of whatever house they presently own!

Published on 24th February 2015

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