Straw Bales Arrive at High Ongar

The first straw bales have arrived on site at High Ongar and are now being used within the build of the straw bales homes.

In August, Hastoe started filming the building process as a time lapse to keep record of the different stages and help other housing providers learn about what is involved in a project like this.

These four innovative ‘Straw Bale’ houses are being built at Millfield, High Ongar, following a planning decision by Epping Forest District Council. This will be the first development of Straw Bale housing to be built in Britain by a housing association.

Two 2-bedroom and two 3-bedroom houses are being developed by Hastoe in partnership with Epping Forest District Council, on former Council-owned land. The land was transferred to Hastoe at a discounted price, and the Government’s Homes and Communities Agency (HCA) is contributing a grant of £92,000 towards the building costs. The architects are Parsons & Whittley and the properties are being developed by DCH, a local contractor based in Coggeshall and work will start within the next couple of weeks. The four houses will be completed in March 2013 and will be let at affordable rents to families on the Council’s Housing Register.

There are a number of benefits of using straw bales within housing.  Whilst the costs of construction are similar to costs of conventional construction, residents will benefit from fuel which will be cheaper than the average costs for heating similar homes of traditional construction. Structural parts of the houses, such as the walls, have been built using timber frames, in-filled with the straw bales. The walls have been covered externally, with a lime render. The character of straw bales houses suits the rural location of the site at Millfield, overlooking farmers’ fields. With clay tile roofs the houses incorporate mainly natural materials and have a slightly rustic quality, although overall they have the appearance of conventional homes. The timber porches are roofed with sedum plants.
Since the straw absorbs carbon dioxide as it is growing, it is widely accepted that buildings of this type of construction have a low carbon footprint. Tests on other straw bale structures by the University of Bath have established that they are strong enough to withstand hurricane force winds up to 120mph - enough to defy the huff and puff of any big bad wolf!  They also have a fire rating at least double the requirements of Building Regulations.

"We are very pleased that the first straw bale houses in the country built by a housing association will be in the Epping Forest District, and that the Council has played such an important part in the success of the project so far” says Councillor Maggie McEwen, the Council’s Housing Portfolio Holder. “The reduced fuel costs will be an enormous help for families on low incomes, and we are very pleased to be at the forefront of such an eco-friendly scheme."

Hastoe's Chief Executive, Sue Chalkley, says:

"We are very pleased with the work so far on this exemplar project. Hastoe is committed to providing affordable housing in rural areas for the benefit of local people. Sustainability is a key part of our approach and this is mirrored by Epping Forest District Council’s drive for highly energy efficient homes. We have been through an extensive design and planning process to ensure that the new homes will be a real benefit to the community."