Strawbales and prefab building are an unlikely combination, but pioneering firm Make Architects has merged the two together to create the Gateway Building -- the UK's largest strawbale building. Now home to the School of Biosciences and the School of Veterinary and Medical Sciences at the University of Nottingham, the four story building is built with 14-meter-high prefabricated panels filled with compressed straw from an on-campus field. Not only do the building materials boast a low embodied carbon footprint, but the building itself is low carbon and has achieved a BREEAM ‘Excellent’ for energy efficiency.
Make Architects was not only responsible for the design of the new science facility, but also the larger masterplan for the Sutton Bonington campus. The facade of the building is made up of repetitive narrow vertical elements that echo rows of trees nearby. These prefabricated timber chambers are filled with 300 metric tons of compressed straw and then lifted into place to act as the walls, insulation and exterior cladding. A ‘flying factory’ was set up by subcontractors, Eurban, close to site to build the panels using local straw and local labor. Windows were created by leaving gaps in the panels, and the panels are highly insulative with a low U-value of just 0.135 W/sq m — which is 60% better than required under current Part L regulations.
The 3,100 sq meter Gateway Building is home to laboratories and offices for the School of Biosciences. Laboratories are generally very energy intensive buildings, but despite this, the new facility has a low-carbon, low-energy footprint and boasts an ‘Excellent’ BREEAM rating for energy efficiency. A CHP plant generates electricity for the building and feeds more back onto the grid for use around the campus. Flexible rooms and arrangement will allow the building to transition over time to accommodate the changing needs of the school.
Images ©Zander Olsen courtesy of Make Architects