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This paper presents the development and characterisation of prototype wheat straw bales that have been produced specifically for use as a building insulation material. The use of straw bales still remains niche in the wider construction market. Whilst traditional straw bales can be used for either loadbearing or non-loadbearing applications, it is their thermal resistance that is of greatest benefit to building performance. There is great potential to significantly improve the thermal resistance and mechanical performance of straw bales for construction by reconfiguring the baling process to orientate the straws preferentially, and also produce bales sizes more suited for contemporary construction practices. Laboratory scale baling equipment has been developed to produce prototype bales with straws optimally orientated for thermal resistance. In a novel study Computer Tomography has been applied to investigate the internal structure and orientation of agricultural and prototype straw bales. The mechanical properties and thermal conductivity performance of novel straw bales are characterised. Changing orientation of the individual straws can improve thermal resistance by up to 28%, facilitating thinner walls, and enabling greater uptake of a novel low embodied carbon bio-based material into mainstream construction.

Original languageEnglish
Article number120035
JournalConstruction and Building Materials
Early online date9 Jul 2020
Publication statusPublished - 30 Nov 2020


  • Compression resistance
  • Computer tomography
  • Insulation
  • Straw bale
  • Thermal conductivity

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Civil and Structural Engineering
  • Building and Construction
  • Materials Science(all)


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