The UK's largest prefabricated straw bale building is officially opened

08 Feb 2012 19:27:43.463

PA 45/11

One of the largest prefabricated straw bale buildings in Europe officially opened at The University of Nottingham today - Wednesday 8 February 2012.

Designed by Make Architects the new Gateway Building has been constructed with 1,954 straw bales harvested on the University’s very own farmland – just 200 yards from the site. Make Architects have produced the video Story of Straw about the technology behind the £7.2m development.

Professor Karen Cox, Pro-Vice-Chancellor for Infrastructure and the Environment, said: “Our aim is to create an inspiring and harmonious place to study and work which will reflect the University’s impressive ‘green’ credentials. This innovative new building is part of a multi-million pound drive to expand and upgrade the University’s teaching and learning facilities. This building, along with many other new facilities on our campuses both in the UK and Asia, will enhance the institution’s position as one of the most popular destinations among applicants to UK universities.


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Housing laboratories for the School of Biosciences and the School of Veterinary Medicine and Science this landmark building signals the start of a 20 year visionary master-plan to expand the University’s Sutton Bonington Campus and enhance its destination as a leading centre for the study of plant and animal sciences.

The straw panel cladding is low-carbon and provides a high level of insulation for a suite of offices, laboratories, seminar and computer rooms for researchers, students, teachers and administration staff.

Make Architects, who also designed the multi-award-winning and distinctive Sir Colin Campbell building, International House, the Amenities building and the Aspire sculpture on Nottingham’s Jubilee campus, are committed to designing schemes which minimise environmental impact and optimise energy efficiency.

With the Gateway Building Make has taken one of the most traditional building materials and elevated it into cutting edge, sustainable building technology.

Ken Shuttleworth, founder of Make, said: “The straw-bale construction of this wonderful building reflects how Make’s sustainable design processes and delivery responds to context, form, materials and environmental qualities thus opening up new possibilities for the industry as a whole.

For us sustainability in architecture is not a ‘bolt-on’ remedy and cannot be achieved by incorporating a few obvious elements. We believe that architects have an urgent duty to mitigate the effects of climate change by designing buildings which work harder and perform better.  Above all, we believe that environmental awareness should not be viewed as a limitation of architectural potential, but as an exciting challenge that will produce a new generation of innovative and environmentally responsible buildings.”

An eye-catching feature of one elevation is a large glazed panel displaying a section of the straw-bale panels. To maximise the use of the space, the efficiency of the floor plate reaches an impressive 80 per cent.

The design was influenced by the campus's agricultural heritage and strong sustainability policy.

Each of the 45 compressed straw panels consist of a cross-laminated timber frame filled with compressed straw and finished externally with render to provide a breathable coating that prevents decay and protects the straw from the external environment. These panels were prefabricated in an off-site 'flying factory' using local labour and delivered ready to be put in place.

The building materials weren't the only locally-sourced resources; the project team consisted of local consultants, contractors and sub-contractors, and the vast majority of building supplies have come directly from the Nottinghamshire area.

There was an address by Dr Ken Shuttleworth, Make Architects followed by the unveiling of a plaque. Dr Shuttleworth also made a key note presentation entitled: ‘Sustainable Futures’.

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Notes to editors:

  The University of Nottingham, described by The Sunday Times University Guide 2011 as ‘the embodiment of the modern international university’, has award-winning campuses in the United Kingdom, China and Malaysia. It is ranked in the UK's Top 10 and the World's Top 75 universities by the Shanghai Jiao Tong (SJTU) and the QS World University Rankings. It was named ‘Europe’s greenest university’ in the UI GreenMetric World University Ranking, a league table of the world’s most environmentally-friendly higher education institutions, which ranked Nottingham second in the world overall.


The University is committed to providing a truly international education for its 40,000 students, producing world-leading research and benefiting the communities around its campuses in the UK and Asia. Impact: The Nottingham Campaign, its biggest ever fund-raising campaign, will deliver the University’s vision to change lives, tackle global issues and shape the future. For more details, visit:


More than 90 per cent of research at The University of Nottingham is of international quality, according to the most recent Research Assessment Exercise, with almost 60 per cent of all research defined as ‘world-leading’ or ‘internationally excellent’. Research Fortnightanalysis of RAE 2008 ranked the University 7th in the UK by research power. The University’s vision is to be recognised around the world for its signature contributions, especially in global food security, energy & sustainability, and health.

Story credits

More information is available from Lindsay Brooke, Media Relations Manager in the Communications Office at The University of Nottingham, on +44 (0)115 951 5751,
Lindsay Brooke

Lindsay Brooke - Media Relations Manager

Email: Phone: +44 (0)115 951 5751 Location: University Park

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