Williams Straw Bale House, Keith Building, Scottish Highlands Architecture, Banffshire Home
Williams Straw Bale House in Keith
Contemporary Residential Property in Northern Scotland – design by Edge Architecture
11 Feb 2016
Williams Straw Bale House
Design: Edge Architecture
Location: Keith, Banffshire, North East Scotland
The Williams Straw Bale House and its outbuildings are located on the site of a former croft near Keith. The site is bounded by woodland and the client has further engaged in planting native tree species and encouraged natural re-growth. Views from the house are predominantly at close quarters into the seasonally changing woods. The existing grass and wildflower ground cover will be left to grow back, extending up to the buildings from the enclosing woodland.
The client brief was firmly set on the construction of a straw bale house with private water supply and home-fed biomass boiler. Combined with a response to ground conditions and orientation this led to grouping the buildings around a courtyard. From the outset, aspirations were to supply key materials from the client’s own land and labour. Winter wheat straw bales, timber and reclaimed stone all feature in the house and only home grown, well-seasoned firewood fuels the highly efficient but seldom hungry boiler.
Arrival in the courtyard provides one’s first close-up view of this home. The courtyard melds indoor/outdoor rural life by also providing an overspill work area. Storage recesses in the courtyard elevations of the outbuildings honour the importance of fuel in this northern climate. The timber framed and clad utility buildings contrast with the straw bale infill construction of the house, both in their crispness and colour. In the more vulnerable and exposed high level areas of the house sawn-face, horizontal rainscreen cladding hints to that of the utility buildings. Here, apart from congruent monopitch roofs, most similarity ends. Although relatively simple in form, the house is articulated into two offset volumes with opposing monopitch roofs. To the courtyard side, the main entrance is sheltered in the internal corner created where the two volumes meet.
This bale infill construction is carefully designed to work with the straw bale module, minimising the need to modify bale sizes. The main structure consists of a double row of small section timbers buried in the depth of the external wall. Lime rendered straw bales are stacked snuggly between the timber framing. All bale walls are built off a masonry base constructed with large format Zeigel blocks. These honey-combed clay blocks are both structural and insulating.
The base wall detail is designed to afford protection to the first bale course without compromising the insulation of the lower wall area. At the southernmost corner, opening off the kitchen at ground floor level, the glazed sunspace rises full height. At first floor level this space contains an internal balcony accessible from the adjacent living room. Views out through the sunspace bring one close to the nearby trees, a treat echoed beautifully in the stained glass window at the head of the stair. Generous sliding doors at both levels enable adjacent spaces to be opened up spatially but also thermally to welcome passive solar gains.
Though unlikely to ever become a common construction technique, this house demonstrates that, when embraced, straw bale construction is well able to meet our needs for a contemporary home.
Photography: Keith Hunter
Williams Straw Bale House in Keith images / information from Edge Architecture
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Williams Straw Bale House in Keith Building : page
Website: Edge Architecture