Technical Details

In this section you will find a sample of some of Straw Works’ Standard design details. They are a result of years of work, experimenting, researching, discussing, making mistakes, trying out different ideas.

The aim has always been to use totally natural materials, as low impact as possible, to create airtight designs, with excellent thermal efficiency. Often these designs are also more financially affordable than the usual poured cement alternative, but we believe affordable has to mean both financial and environmental, with no compromises!

It is not necessary to test bales according to a British Standard, but you should definitely use the written Standard shown here to make sure that your bales are good enough for building. Building Inspectors should use this standard when visiting site, and should read the book about good installation details too in order to make sure that the straw is being installed correctly.

Barbara also offer a consultancy service and can give you advice about your own designs – just ask.

All these designs have achieved current Building Regulation approval.

Both Straw Works and SNaB have worked closely with John Butler of Sustainable Building Consultancy to develop these excellent resources below, which have informed the fine tuning of our designs:

Ideas have often come from unexpected sources, for instance, I got the idea of using the foamglas T4 block as a loadbearing foundation material when I saw sheets of it being used for flat roofing. I was looking for something that would be loadbearing, insulating, and sustainable – a tough call – for our designs for thermally efficient foundations. This design was first used (and approved by Building Regulations) for affordable strawbale council houses, that we designed for North Kesteven Council in 2007.

The idea for car tyre foundations came from seeing earthships and thinking that was a no-fun method of building (too much repetitive hard work!) but wouldn’t it be good for low impact foundations? I wanted to use them in 1997, but the architect I was working with couldn’t accept them.

However, Calderdale Council’s Building Control department were the first to pass them legally through building regulations in 1998, for a design I did as Amazon Nails for a sauna in Hebden Bridge (sadly never got built). The first building with tyres that did get built was for what is now the Clervaux Trust near Darlington.

Car tyre foundations are now completely accepted throughout the UK as a viable foundation method, and are very popular with community groups because although they require some effort, they can be built for little or no cost. We built the foundations for a 3 bedroomed single storey strawbale house in 2011 for less than £500! And that included hiring a dumper truck.

I have been challenged, inspired and supported in this constant search by Kuba Wihan, Hannah Hunt, and various other individuals.

Barbara Jones