Straw bales used in Essex house builds

Artist's impression of "straw bale" homes in High Ongar The straw bale homes are to be built on land formerly owned by the council at Millfield

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Homes with straw bales in the walls are to be built in Essex and are believed to be the first in the UK by a housing association.

The homes in High Ongar will be built using timber frames, in-filled with straw bales covered with lime render.

They will need almost no conventional heating due to the "exceptionally high" insulating properties of straw, Hastoe Housing Association said.

Work is expected to start within two weeks and be completed in March 2013.

The homes will then be let to people on Epping District Council's housing register.

Hastoe said: "The tenants will benefit from fuel costs around 85% cheaper than the average costs for heating similar homes of traditional construction.

Inside the straw house Inside a straw house at a development in Lincolnshire

"When complete, the high level of energy efficiency will reduce CO2 emissions by around 60%, compared to conventionally-built homes."

Maggie McEwen, the council's member for housing, said: "The reduced fuel costs will be an enormous help for families on low incomes, and we are very pleased to be at the forefront of such an eco-friendly scheme."

Hastoe received a grant of £92,000 from the Homes and Communities Agency (HCA) towards the build.

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