We have completed work on the largest single straw bale building in the UK. This pioneering project is the first stage of a 20-year visionary masterplan which aims to expand the Sutton Bonington Campus and enhance its reputation as a leading destination for the study of plant and animal sciences.
The landmark building, with a value of £5.2 million, brings together the School of Biosciences and the School of Veterinary and Medical Sciences and has been designed to accommodate a wide range of functions, while comfortably providing for many different users. To maximise the use of the space, the efficiency of the floorplate reaches an impressive 80 per cent.
Consciously contextual, the design was influenced by the campus’s agricultural heritage and strong sustainability policy. Taking inspiration from the rhythm of the line of trees adjacent to the site, the facade is innovatively formed from prefabricated modular straw bale panels, locally produced using straw harvested from the University’s own farmland. For the first time straw has been applied as an external curtain wall system, with each panel spanning all four floors of the building in one prefabricated piece. This cost-effective and environmentally friendly system was quick and easy to construct.
Each 14m long panel consists of a cross-laminated timber frame filled with compressed straw and finished externally with render to provide a breathable coating that prevents decay and protects the straw from the external environment. These panels were prefabricated in an off-site ‘flying factory’ using local labour and delivered ready to be put in place. In the main entrance atrium a series of ‘truth windows’ form an interesting feature; some of the plyboard panels have been taken out and replaced with clear perspex to allow visitors to see the straw bales, which would otherwise be concealed from view.
Consultants: Couch Perry and Wilkes, Electrat, Eurban, Herbert Baggaley Construction Ltd, Nightingale Associates, Price and Myers, RKN Aluminium, Sand Project Management, S+B UK Ltd, William Bailey Ltd
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