Straw bale construction is both sustainable and remarkably energy efficient, and its organic nature can create some incredibly beautiful homes. But this building technique is not for everyone, nor every climate, and using straw bales in construction requires an almost artisan-like craftsmanship. A prefab company in the UK called ModCell, has taken an innovative approach that merges straw bale construction with prefabricated panels, with an end result that is highly attractive, energy-efficient and very sustainable. If prefab is your thing, ModCell is definitely a company you’ll want to look into.
ModCell’s prefabrication process differs significantly from most prefab builders because they use straw bale in their panels. Straw bale homes are not incredibly popular yet, despite their incredible insulation and sustainable properties. ModCell prefabricates its panels and wall systems in a factory utilizing PEFC timbers (a global organization to promote sustainable forestry management) and then fills them with locally-sourced straw or hemp. These panels are air-tight, mold resistant, and result in practically no waste during prefabrication. Extra wood scraps are burned in the factory’s biomass boiler, extra straw or hemp goes to farms to be used as bedding, and any leftover metal scraps are recycled.
The exterior of the panels is covered in lime rendering, a stucco-like material that allows the building to breathe. ModCell’s super tight construction meets PassivHaus standards, and in some climates may not require any heating at all. The company already has a number of projects completed, including an EcoDepot, architectural studios, a farm building and the BaleHaus shown here, which is a demonstration project on the University of Bath campus. Also in the works are multi-family housing and neighborhood development projects.