Episode 15: Rachel Shiamh's Strawbale House

Rachel Shiamh won a Grand Designs Award for her 2 storey load bearing strawbale home in Wales.

Strawbale construction is a building method that uses straw bales as structural elements, insulation, or both. It is commonly used in natural building. It has advantages over some conventional building systems because of its cost, easy availability, and its high insulation value

Her strawbale home in Wales was voted Channel 4 TV Grand Designs Eco Home of 2008. This house was the first two-storey load-bearing strawbale structure to be built in the UK and only the second in Europe.

The design brief, set by owner Rachel Shiamh, was to build a beautiful, low impact strawbale home which had to be sensitive to its natural environment, self-sustaining and made from natural and mainly local materials.

An off-grid power supply system was specified, to be powered by sun and wind, and fuelled by its own woodland, with all waste to be composted on site through an Aquatron system. The strawbale walls, with a u value of only 0.13, together with thermafleece in the cedar shingled roof, provide extraordinary insulation. Only a single wood burner using coppiced wood is required for heating. The solar panels, thermal system and wind turbine supply all other energy requirements on a 24v system. Natural materials are used throughout - the floors are timber and other natural materials including slate, glaster, limecrete and earth, with leca insulation.The strawbale walls are rendered with lime and clay. All timber was locally sourced.