UP STRAW Building official Context and Policy Report

Written by esba

This report presents:

  • A ‘snap-shot’ survey in 2020 of the CURRENT policy and regulations in the five project countries.
  • It identifies the present barriers and achievements.
  • And it aims to identify which specific actions will unlock barriers to straw construction, especially for urban and public buildings.

Open/download the PDF

Currently straw construction techniques are more relevant than ever to the built environment particularly in the context of climate change. Straw construction can deliver buildings and retrofits that use natural materials (straw, wood, clay and lime), create healthy and well indoor living environments, are energy efficient, have good levels of carbon capture in their life cycle and are known to be very durable – the oldest straw bale house in Europe is 100 years old.
As heating buildings represent about 15% of the greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions in North West Europe NWE, all countries are planning renovation and insulation programmes and new buildings must already reach the passive standard in many regions. The problem is, the emissions of the construction sector itself represents approximately 12% of the GHG: cement, bricks, glass & petrochemicals consume high levels of grey energy, evaluated at about 22 TCO2 eq. for a standard house. In addition they bring no long term solution: what will be the state of all these concrete walls covered by polystyrene or polyurethane in 30 years time?
The solution for this dilemma is the development of local bio-based building materials. An intelligent combination of wood for structure and straw for insulation allows the construction of almost any kind of building. Straw bales 46 cm thick enable Passivhaus Standard insulation levels. Straw and wood needed for a standard house have fixed in their growth life about 18 TCO2 equivalent.

How does UP STRAW make a difference?
The European Straw Bale Association (ESBA) was founded in 2016 to enable straw bale builders and designers in European countries to share their extensive knowledge and experience, and to create a platform for news, meetings and gatherings, training, projects, research and a comprehensive database. The members of ESBA also identified challenges they had experienced in promoting straw construction as a building method. In order to explore the challenges & to find ways of combating them, five countries from ESBA jointly applied for EU funding. The group was successful and obtained €7.1 m funding through the INTERREG North West Europe programme. The funding enabled the UPSTRAW: Urban and Public Buildings in Straw Project 2017-2022 to be established. The project is a collaboration between: France, Belgium, The Netherlands, United Kingdom and Germany.
The UP STRAW ambition is to effect a paradigm shift in the perception of straw construction by raising awareness, increasing knowledge and changing behaviour through: training programmes, technical evidence, demonstration projects, and publicity campaigns.
Each of these countries has its own history of straw building together with different levels of official support and regulation. One of the priorities of UP STRAW is to identify actions for improving regulations, policies and official agreements in order to achieve long term recognition and support for straw construction.

Author: School of Natural Building, UK, July 2020

About the author


The European Straw Building Association is an independent European association, devoid of any profit making motive. The object of the Association is to promote and develop the use of straw, as a sustainable way of building in all the senses of the term “sustainable”: renewable, ecological, healthy, energy and climate efficient, social and economic.
The Association is a federation composed of organisations and people particularly concerned with the use of straw in buildings.