Straw houses without fables, with advantages for buyers and the environment

Every tonne of grain produced in New Zealand produces the same weight in straw, according to company director Nelson Fineline Architecture.

Up to 40% of that straw was burned each year, said Magdalena Garbarczyk, citing figures from the Foundation for Arable Research.

“You see big fires on the Canterbury Plains because there just isn’t enough time to plow the [cut] straw in the ground, or to use it as animal feed or for any other product.

Using straw differently – and more widely – to build homes in New Zealand would not only reduce harmful gases released by burning crop residues, and help keep the carbon it sequesters locked in, Garbarczyk said. .

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Magdalena Garbarczyk, director of Fineline Architecture, says building smaller homes with prefabricated straw and wood panels would help produce homes that use less energy and money for construction and heating.

Braden Fastier / Stuff

Magdalena Garbarczyk, director of Fineline Architecture, says building smaller homes with prefabricated straw and wood panels would help produce homes that use less energy and money for construction and heating.

This would lead to homes that would emit less carbon, both during construction and after, and would cost less to build and heat than homes typically built now, she said.

Key to the proposal, in a joint project with Unitec Institute of Technology researcher Min Hall, was the construction of houses with prefabricated panels containing straw.

The straw had “phenomenal” insulating properties and was already used in the construction of some houses in Aotearoa, Garbarczyk said.

But it was traditionally a “very long” process, which involved building a wooden frame, using straw as filler and plastering it on both sides, said the former school teacher. Unitec architecture.

Using wood panels, with the straw already enclosed inside, required less labor – “the highest cost of construction”.

The pre-made straw and wood panels could be put together “much like Lego blocks”.

The traditional use of straw in the construction of houses in Aotearoa is labor intensive, explains the author of a project proposing prefabricated straw panels.

Hamish Stuart / Stuff

The traditional use of straw in the construction of houses in Aotearoa is labor intensive, explains the author of a project proposing prefabricated straw panels.

Panels in the “Strawlines” project had a level of thermal resistance three times greater than that required by the Building Code, significantly reducing the energy — and money — needed to heat homes, Garbarczyk said.

The straw sequestered the carbon “in fairly large amounts”, which was then locked into a building made with the panels, for the life of the building, she said.

But the material was nothing without the design, she said.

“If you use these panels to build a 350 square meter house, we really don’t solve anything.

“We use the material in very small homes.”

The project offered houses with 1 to 3 bedrooms, with a total area of ​​approximately 45 to 75 square meters.

They incorporated built-in furniture, lofts and double-height spaces that created a feeling of spaciousness and made them warm and energy-efficient, Garbarczyk said.

Items such as roof cassettes could be assembled offsite, eliminating the need for additional structures to support the roof, she said.

“When you have assembly lines that prefabricate house elements, the quality is usually higher, it’s done much faster, it’s a leaner process, with much less waste, and it costs less because it…requires fewer people, less work, less energy.

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Make these easy changes to household habits and you’ll reduce your annual carbon emissions by around 10%.

Precast straw panels were used more frequently in Europe on buildings of varying scales, she said.

Adapted to Aotearoa’s climate, rules and available materials, the authors of the project were now looking for developers to support their designs.

The project was selected for an international design competition for “resilient and adaptable houses”.

* Garbarczyk is due to speak at a “Climate Leaders” event at the Mahitahi Colab on the NMIT campus in Nelson on Nov. 24, marking the year of the program run by Mission Zero, an initiative of the local charitable foundation, Businesses for Climate Action.

Garbarczyk offers an alternative use of straw in construction, to help build quality homes with a reduced carbon footprint.

Braden Fastier / Stuff

Garbarczyk offers an alternative use of straw in construction, to help build quality homes with a reduced carbon footprint.

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