Property: People can live in grass houses

The straw house built by the little pig in the fairy tale, which was huffed, puffed and blown down by the wicked fox, has had a bad press. The truth is that this pig's dwelling may have been centuries ahead of its time.

Buildings made out of straw bales are no longer seen as the wacky creations of pastoral dreamers. They have become serious constructions in their own right, from their early manifestations as utilitarian storesheds to today's growing number of full-blown family houses. Straw bales are cheap at pounds 1.50 each, easy for self-builders to use, and are good insulators.

Perhaps the most ambitious bale project yet is in southern Ireland, where a family of four lives in a round, three-storey house - but its location is a closely guarded secret. The plan for another straw house envisaged by architects Jeremy Till and Sarah Wigglesworth is just as impressive, but in a very different way: it is slap bang in the middle of New Labour's heartland - Islington, north London, just off the Caledonian Road, to be exact.

Islington Council has approved plans for their three-bedroom house to be built on a derelict patch of former railway land. Construction is due to start in May next year. Although the couple are building it as a house to live in, at a cost of about pounds 220,000, they are treating it as a research project. As university lecturers in architecture, they want to demonstrate that living an energy-efficient and green lifestyle can be normal - indeed must be so, if the planet is to be self-sustaining.

"We want to get away from the idea that you have to be a back-to-nature dreamer to be environmentally sound," says Mr Till. "There is a middle ground which uses techniques that are appropriate, sometimes quite sophisticated, at other times very simple. To that extent this house is a piece of propaganda."

Walls of straw bales are usually plastered inside and out. But the walls of the planned Islington house will be treated only on the inside, the external face being covered by a translucent rain screen so that the bales remain visible.

The roof is perhaps the most radical aspect of the house. The twine on the straw bales, which will lie over a waterproof timber deck, will be cut so that the straw becomes loose and is left to rot for six months. A thin layer of compost will be spread over the top, and the "hairy roof" will be planted with strawberries.

There will be underfloor heating and windows will be triple-glazed. There is the option of later installing photo-voltaic panels on the roof - a highly efficient form of solar heating. In addition, the couple plan to install composting lavatories.

"Straw, contrary to belief, is one of the safest building materials - it is not highly combustible because the straw is packed so tightly," says Mr Till. "Nor does it attract vermin. It may well be the building material of the future. We hope that with this house we can show that low-energy buildings don't have to be boring."

Discover more property articles at Homes and Property
News
The clocks go forward an hour at 1am on Sunday 30 March
news
Arts and Entertainment
The Doctor finds himself in a forest version of London in Doctor Who episode 'In the Forest of the Night'
TVReview: Is the Doctor ever going stop frowning? Apparently not.
Sport
footballMatch report: Real fight back to ruin Argentinian's debut
News
Bruce, left, with Cream bandmates Ginger Rogers, centre, and Eric Clapton in 1967
people
PROMOTED VIDEO
Money
Welcome to tinsel town: retailers such as Selfridges will be Santa's little helpers this Christmas, working hard to persuade shoppers to stock up on gifts
news
News
i100
News
people
Arts and Entertainment
Architect Frank Gehry is regarded by many as the most important architect of the modern era
arts + entsGehry has declared that 98 per cent of modern architecture is "s**t"
Arts and Entertainment
Soul singer Sam Smith cleared up at the Mobo awards this week
arts + entsSam Smith’s Mobo triumph is just the latest example of a trend
Property search
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Maths Teacher

£110 - £200 per day: Randstad Education Leeds: Secondary Maths Teacher for spe...

Business Analyst - Surrey - Permanent - Up to £50k DOE

£40000 - £50000 Per Annum Excellent benefits: Clearwater People Solutions Ltd:...

***ASP.NET Developer - Cheshire - £35k - Permanent***

£30000 - £35000 Per Annum Excellent benefits: Clearwater People Solutions Ltd:...

***Solutions Architect*** - Brighton - £40k - Permanent

£35000 - £40000 Per Annum Excellent benefits: Clearwater People Solutions Ltd:...

Day In a Page

Wilko Johnson, now the bad news: musician splits with manager after police investigate assault claims

Wilko Johnson, now the bad news

Former Dr Feelgood splits with manager after police investigate assault claims
Mark Udall: The Democrat Senator with a fight on his hands ahead of the US midterm elections

Mark Udall: The Democrat Senator with a fight on his hands

The Senator for Colorado is for gay rights, for abortion rights – and in the Republicans’ sights as they threaten to take control of the Senate next month
New discoveries show more contact between far-flung prehistoric humans than had been thought

New discoveries show more contact between far-flung prehistoric humans than had been thought

Evidence found of contact between Easter Islanders and South America
Cerys Matthews reveals how her uncle taped 150 interviews for a biography of Dylan Thomas

Cerys Matthews on Dylan Thomas

The singer reveals how her uncle taped 150 interviews for a biography of the famous Welsh poet
DIY is not fun and we've finally realised this as a nation

Homebase closures: 'DIY is not fun'

Homebase has announced the closure of one in four of its stores. Nick Harding, who never did know his awl from his elbow, is glad to see the back of DIY
The Battle of the Five Armies: Air New Zealand releases new Hobbit-inspired in-flight video

Air New Zealand's wizard in-flight video

The airline has released a new Hobbit-inspired clip dubbed "The most epic safety video ever made"
Pumpkin spice is the flavour of the month - but can you stomach the sweetness?

Pumpkin spice is the flavour of the month

The combination of cinnamon, clove, nutmeg (and no actual pumpkin), now flavours everything from lattes to cream cheese in the US
11 best sonic skincare brushes

11 best sonic skincare brushes

Forget the flannel - take skincare to the next level by using your favourite cleanser with a sonic facial brush
Paul Scholes column: I'm not worried about Manchester United's defence - Chelsea test can be the making of Phil Jones and Marcos Rojo

Paul Scholes column

I'm not worried about Manchester United's defence - Chelsea test can be the making of Jones and Rojo
Frank Warren: Boxing has its problems but in all my time I've never seen a crooked fight

Frank Warren: Boxing has its problems but in all my time I've never seen a crooked fight

While other sports are stalked by corruption, we are an easy target for the critics
Jamie Roberts exclusive interview: 'I'm a man of my word – I'll stay in Paris'

Jamie Roberts: 'I'm a man of my word – I'll stay in Paris'

Wales centre says he’s not coming home but is looking to establish himself at Racing Métro
How could three tourists have been battered within an inch of their lives by a burglar in a plush London hotel?

A crime that reveals London's dark heart

How could three tourists have been battered within an inch of their lives by a burglar in a plush London hotel?
Meet 'Porridge' and 'Vampire': Chinese state TV is offering advice for citizens picking a Western moniker

Lost in translation: Western monikers

Chinese state TV is offering advice for citizens picking a Western moniker. Simon Usborne, who met a 'Porridge' and a 'Vampire' while in China, can see the problem
Handy hacks that make life easier: New book reveals how to rid your inbox of spam, protect your passwords and amplify your iPhone

Handy hacks that make life easier

New book reveals how to rid your email inbox of spam, protect your passwords and amplify your iPhone with a loo-roll
KidZania lets children try their hands at being a firefighter, doctor or factory worker for the day

KidZania: It's a small world

The new 'educational entertainment experience' in London's Shepherd's Bush will allow children to try out the jobs that are usually undertaken by adults, including firefighter, doctor or factory worker