A Zero Carbon Home that uses locally sourced natural materials to deliver a sustainable custom build housing solution.

About this project

Living more sustainably requires us to develop ways to live within our environmental means, especially in relation to our carbon footprint, maintain a healthy and comfortable quality of life and build strong cohesive communities. BaleHaus addresses these challenges and offers a straightforward and practical way to reduce our footprint on the earth.

BaleHaus uses ModCell straw panels to provide a super-insulated home, made from locally available materials that are designed to be dismantled, re-used and recycled at the end of a typical 75+ year life. This super insulating system meets the PassivHaus specification for zero heat homes.

It is one of six schemes available at Heartlands.

Use of Timber

A BaleHaus is constructed from pre-fabricated straw bale panels and structural timber frame elements. This innovative, off-site manufactured envelope solution can be quickly and efficiently installed, creating buildings with outstanding thermal and airtightness performance.

The material palette provides a variety of choices in accordance with the Design Code and other planning requirements. The choices include locally sourced materials from timber cladding and shingles to natural lime renders, that will contribute to a streetscape of variety along with the offers from other Home Manufacturers.

The BaleHaus Custom Homes build system is Q-Mark certified by BM TRADA.

The story of the re-usable prototype

The original BaleHaus at Bath was completed and opened by Kevin McCloud, of Grand Designs, in 2009. It has been used as a research building for the ModCell straw bale panel system. The research recorded data every 15 minutes from within the panels and the building as a whole. Other research included hurricane testing and identifying the reduced heating requirement due to the super-insulated nature of the panels. Numerous other research testing has also been completed.

Due to the modular nature of the ModCell system and the desire to not lose this innovative building, it was decided to dismantle the BaleHaus and re-assemble it in its new location. The stated aims were to reuse and recycle as much of the building materials as possible, whilst also proving the ability to relocate buildings using the ModCell system.

As the timber cladding was being removed, the new sites foundations were being laid. The ModCell panels were detached from each other and moved, via a tele-handler, to a temporary storage area next to the new site. The new site had a number of trees that were under protection, so great care and planning was taken to ensure that they were in no danger.

The stated aim of the project was to re-use and recycle as much of the original buildings materials as possible.

Recycled and re-used materials:

  • 100% of the ModCell panels
  • 100% of the roof deck and wood fibre insulation
  • 100% of the internal walls and timber beams
  • 100% of the internal floor between ground floor and first floor,
  • 100% of the windows and doors
  • 75% of the original timber cladding - this was used on three faces of the building, the 25% of new timber cladding was applied to one face of the BaleHaus - you can see this in the picture slide show above
  • The original site foundations were broken up and used as hard core for the new 5 storey education block

The BaleHaus at Bath is now being used by the University as an office building. It now has a cloakroom, kitchen and a variety of different size office spaces. A palette of bright colours has been used throughout the building to create a vibrant work space. The building will continue to be monitored as part of the ongoing research by ModCell and the University.

Why is it a Low-Carbon Case Study?

A conventional house designed to today's Building Regulations will emit ca. 3.1 tonnes of CO2 per year. The BaleHaus, however, reduces its heating demand by 80%. It does this through super-insulation, high performance triple glazing combined with airtight construction, passive design techniques and heat recovery ventilation in winter. A BioMass boiler combined with a solar domestic hot water system to each house supply the remaining heat requirement for water heating. Energy efficient electrical fittings and appliances in combination with passive design and good daylight levels reduce the electrical demand by 19%. These measures mean the Balehaus carbon emissions are reduced to 1.6 tonnes per year, a saving of almost 50%. Its use of natural materials that take CO2 from the atmosphere and store it means that each house “banks” the equivalent of 42 tonnes of CO2. Even allowing for the ca 20 tonnes of CO2 emitted during manufacture, supply and installation of the building fabric, structure, fixtures, fittings decoration mechanical and electrical equipment, this still leaves 22 tonnes of carbon dioxide in the “bank”. This “carbon credit” is enough to offset 10 years of BaleHaus energy requirements using fossil fuels and over 40 years if energy is supplied from renewable, grid-based sources.


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