Straw building named in awards

PUBLISHED: 12:48 10 July 2008 | UPDATED: 14:07 10 May 2010

The Sworders building in Stansted

The Sworders building in Stansted

AN AUCTION house which has its walls lined with straw has been nominated for a top architectural award. The home of auctioneers GE Sworder & Sons, based at Stansted Mountfitchet, has been shortlisted for the Royal Institute of British Architects (RIBA) Sp

AN AUCTION house which has its walls lined with straw has been nominated for a top architectural award.

The home of auctioneers GE Sworder & Sons, based at Stansted Mountfitchet, has been shortlisted for the Royal Institute of British Architects (RIBA) Spirit of Ingenuity Awards.

Surveyor and partner at Sworders, Robert Ward-Booth, said: "We're delighted with the nomination and very pleased that all our hard work has been recognised."

After nearly six years of designing and constructing the auction room, Sworders officially opened its new home on May 8. The building has been nominated in the sustainability category for the East of England and will be judged against five other entries.

The auction room is the largest straw bale building in Europe and has been designed with an array of environmentally friendly features.

"Right from the outset we wanted to build something which was sustainable. I see no point in wasting energy," said Mr Ward-Booth. "From a commercial point of view it is very practical, but it is also a very nice place to work. Everybody says it has a nice atmosphere."

The biggest ecological feature of the building is the straw bale insulation which fills the walls.

"The building has coped well in the summer and although we haven't had that many hot days, the building has been kept cool. The true test of the straw insulation will come in the colder, winter months," said Mr Ward-Booth.

The building is heated using bio-fuel - sawdust from the wood industry which is compacted into pellets and burnt. The water is heated by solar panels and the building has a water harvester to collect rainwater. The only water that is imported onto the site is drinking water.

"The cost of the auction room to build was very similar to a standard building, but with the cost of oil at more than $100 a barrel it is a lot cheaper to run," said Mr Ward-Booth.

"I hope more companies will be encouraged to build designs which are environmentally friendly."

The auction house was designed by architects Melville Dunbar Associates, based at Coggleshall, Essex, and despite having walls packed with straw bales, it meets all fire regulations.

"It has the same fire resistance as a brick wall," said Mr Ward-Booth. "The straw carbonises and very quickly uses up all the air so the fire goes out. Straw bale buildings have been built in Australia and proved very resistant to bush fires."

The winner will be announced one week before the official RIBA East Regional Awards Dinner which is being held on September 26 at Queens' College, Cambridge.

What do you think of the straw building? Write to us at editor@saffronwalden-reporter.co.uk

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