Nuts & Bolts #4 – The FIRST Straw?

N&B#4 - The First Straw

You cannot make bricks without straw, the idiom goes, but with warnings of a brick shortage in the UK why not ditch bricks entirely and just build with the straw?

Once the purview of porcine property possessors, timber-framed, straw bale-filled homes are now on sale on the open market courtesy of an engineering research project led by Professor Pete Piggy – ahem; I mean Walker – of the University of Bath.

Sceptics may huff and puff, but the Guardian reports that straw houses can cut heating bills by up to 90%, block external sound (I shall have to ask my voiceover actor friends about straw recording booths…) and actually repel fire.

“The facts are so good the industry can’t believe them.” – Jones Butler, quoted in The Guardian

So, could this be a straw in the wind for solving the chronic shortage of UK housing? That might be more of a fairy tale. Despite the benefits, the construction industry has yet to embrace the material – straw is not a new, ‘hi-tech’ product, and so lacks the ability to pull in money (if not bacon…), and there is yet sufficient industry evidence to convince mortgage providers of its value. This camel’s back (unlike The Bat’s) remains unbroken for now.

Without wishing to clutch at…well, you know…maybe we could take inspiration for innovative building materials from other fairy tales – the gingerbread house of Hansel and Gretel fame, peradventure? Ah, but no; the temptation to grow fat on such a home’s cavity filling – which could, dentally speaking, actually result in cavity filing – might well put tenant’s at risk of losing their benefits if the Conservatives were to win the forthcoming General Election.

Apologies for invoking a straw man…but, to take Hansel’s lead, I’m inclined to stick a certain (bony) finger out at that particular policy proposal.


Brick shortages as homebuilding grows at fastest rate since 2003, The Guardian, Online:, Available: February 2015

First straw homes go on sale, The Guardian, Online:, Available: February 2015

Obese could be ordered to ‘lose weight or lose benefits’ if Conservatives win General Election, The Independent, Online:, Available: February 2015

You can huff and you can puff, but don’t blow straw houses down just yet, The Guardian, Online:, Available: February 2015

Art (ahem…) copyright of Neil Jackson, 26/02/2015


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