Hackney City Farm is a little agricultural oasis in the middle of the grim east end of London. There are chickens, ducks, cows and goats living amidst the apartment towers and forlorn shops. It must be the only place where roosters pick around an old London taxi cab. The farm is 20 years old and recently they have constructed a new education centre out of straw bales,an old fashioned building method originating in the U.S. about 100 years ago.
It is a low environmental impact form of building, using natural materials. Usually the buildings are in the countryside, closer to the actual materials. In this case, the straw bales came from a nearby farm and have only clocked up 37 'straw bale-miles'. The foundation is made of old car tires. The roof insulation is wool and comes from the farm's sheep. Much of the wood used comes from a salvaged 1930s teak boat--the cross-beam was once part of the Norfolk sea defences. The rest is coppiced wood from the farm manager's own farm in Kent. All waste straw from the building was reused for bedding on the farm.
Although the three little pigs had a house of straw which did not fare too well, straw bale houses are durable, solid and easily maintained. It is environmental since straw is a renewable resource; the crop has a short growth time. Built by volunteers, working in a very supportive environment, the construction of the centre was a community effort from start to finish. These inner city children from rough areas will gain a greater, hands-on appreciation of ecology in action.
:: Via :: SmartPlanet