Straw Bales Used for Pop-Up Structure

Productive Building is a recycled and recyclable building system concept that was recently demonstrated for the construction of Greenhouse, a temporary, and entirely waste free, restaurant on the waterfront in Sydney, Australia.  The Productive Building system is an intriguing and fast way of creating a building with steel, straw bales, and simple interior and exterior finishes.

The restaurant was only up from February 12 through the end of March 2011 and has now been disassembled.  But the construction method could be used elsewhere for more permanent structures, as well as for similar temporary structures like this.

It begins with a light-gauge steel frame, which can even be site-fabricated using a roll-forming machine that produces structural forms from a continuous roll of thin sheet steel. After the frame is erected, the inside is clad with plywood for structural bracing and to provide the interior finish of the building.

Then spaces between the frame are filled with straw bales. Straw bales are, of course, a very local material. The exterior is covered with corrugated metal and then a steel mesh with terracotta pots was installed to make a vegetated wall for the building. Lastly, the building was finished on the interior, and doors and windows were installed.

There are some disadvantages to this for permanent construction. The metal structure means that there is a piece of thermally conductive metal going through the wall, which reduces the insulation benefit of straw bale wall construction.

The straw bale, which is actually load-bearing in standard straw bale construction, serves only as insulation infill in this case, so there is some duplication of structure.  However, for a temporary installation, the structure was able to be quickly and easily assembled on its site, and was also able to be quickly disassembled and its various materials re-purposed or recycled.

The restaurant is next scheduled to go up in Milan, followed by other European cities on its World Tour.

Many thanks to Melissa Mai for graciously providing images of the building from its brief incarnation.


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  • Anonymous

    Intriguing article. I’m sure I’m slightly late in posting my comment but the article ended up being the purpose and just the info I became searching for.

  • Anonymous

    “The metal structure means that there is a piece of thermally conductive metal going through the wall, which reduces the insulation benefit of straw bale wall construction.

    The straw bale, which is actually load-bearing in standard straw bale construction, serves only as insulation infill in this case, so there is some duplication of structure. ”

    WHAT A BLOODY MESS!! So you use the straw bales for insulation and not structural, meaning you need a structure, and then the insulation system you come up with has an incredibly high number of thermal bridges that aren’t ANYWHERE near small by using the metal system to encase the “insulating” straw bales. This is so backwards in ideology it’s frightening to think that a designer out there thought this was a good idea and then promoted it. The ONLY thing going for them in this is the “novelty factor” of using such a material. And it’s such a shame they used it soooo poorly in the end…. “temporary” structure or not….

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  • http://twitter.com/urbangardens Urban Gardens

    Totally cool idea!

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