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The carbon-reduction potential of straw-bale housing

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The role of straw bale as a construction material for reducing the whole-life impacts of housing is examined. The embodied and operational CO2 emissions in a recently completed UK social housing project are compared using alternative domestic external wall constructions and the effects on the resulting CO2 emissions. It is estimated that over 15 tonnes of CO2 may be stored in biotic materials of each of the semi-detached houses, of which around 6 tonnes are sequestered by straw and the remaining by wood and wood products. This suggests the carbon lock-up potential of renewable construction materials is capable of reducing the case study house's whole-life CO2 emissions of the house over its 60-year design life by 61% when compared with the case without sequestration. The practical implications of construction, detailing, maintenance, cost and self-build potentials of straw-bale construction are also considered. The potential for load-bearing straw-bale walls is examined through the whole-life performance of straw-bale construction with alternative conventional external walling systems. Le role de la balle de paille comme materiau de construction pour reduire l'impact des logements en termes de cycle de vie est examine. Les emissions de CO2 intrinseques et operationnelles dans un ensemble de logements sociaux recemment acheve au Royaume-Uni sont comparees, en utilisant des methodes differentes de construction des murs exterieurs des logements et les effets des emissions de CO2 qui en resultent. Il est estime qu'il est possible de stocker plus de 15 tonnes de CO2 dans les materiaux biotiques de chacun de ces pavillons jumeles, dont 6 tonnes environ sont sequestrees par la paille, le reste l'etant par le bois et les produits ligneux. Ceci suggere que les possibilites de sequestration du carbone offertes par les materiaux de construction renouvelables sont capables de reduire de 61 % les emissions de CO2 durant le cycle de vie des maisons de cette etude de cas, pour une duree de vie nominale des maisons de 60 ans, par comparaison avec le cas de figure sans sequestration. Sont egalement envisagees les implications pratiques des possibilites qu'offre une construction utilisant des balles de paille en termes de construction, de details de construction, d'entretien, de cout et d'autoconstruction. Le potentiel d'utilisation de balles de paille pour les murs porteurs est etudie sous l'angle des performances, tout au long du cycle de vie, de constructions en balles de paille faisant appel a differents systemes classiques de construction des murs exterieurs. Mots cles: emissions de CO2, cout, energie intrinseque, energie operationnelle, CO2 sequestre, logement social, balle de paille
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Keywords: CO2 emissions; cost; embodied energy; operational energy; sequestered CO2; social housing; straw bale

Document Type: Research Article

Affiliations: 1: School of Architecture, University of Lincoln, Lincoln, UK 2: Department of Science, Technology and Society, Utrecht University, Heidelberglaan, the Netherlands 3: Amazonails, Todmorden, UK 4: Simons Design, Lincoln, UK

Publication date: January 1, 2011

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