Straw bale building is rapidly making a name for itself as a viable construction method, and this Straw Bale Cafe at the Herefordshire College of Technology in the UK is a perfect example of this trend. Designed by Hewitt Studios using Modcell's prefabricated straw bale construction technology, the Straw Bale Cafe was made using locally grown straw and wood harvested from the campus grounds. The 100-seat cafe features a refurbished kitchen, an outdoor cafe terrace, a growing living wall, and it takes advantage of renewable energy among many other strategies to reduce its overall impact.
Completed in 2010, the cafe was conceived as a learning aid in low-impact environmental design for the college. Modcell set up a Flying Factory in a nearby barn to prefabricate the building and minimize impact on the construction site. Organic straw was sourced from campus grounds along with the cedar cladding which was harvested from campus forests. The cafe is highly insulated and has a u-value 3x better than current regulations require (0.14), which means that heating and cooling is minimized. Natural ventilation and daylighting work to minimize energy use as well. Waste was decreased through precision cutting and any scrap material was composted, burned in campus biomass boilers or recycled.
At the end of its 20 year life, the building was designed to be dismantled and most of its components reused or recycled. A photovoltaic system on the roof and a Swift small-scale wind turbine are able to generate up to 6 kW of power for the building and a monitor indoors displays power generation statistics. The project also sequesters carbon dioxide and each 3m x 3.2m prefabricated load-bearing panel sequesters approximately 1400kg. Further, a green living wall planted with local varieties adds to the biodiversity of the area and aids with building performance. College students were heavily involved with the building process and continue with the ongoing sustainable operation of the cafe.
Images ©Paul Younger