School of Natural Building Secures Grant Funding

School of Natural Building
Thursday, 30th March 2017

The School of Natural Building has been awarded 6.3m Euros in Grant Funding, to increase the uses of low carbon technologies.

The School of Natural Building (SNaB) has been jointly awarded 6.3m euros to increase the uses of low carbon technologies in sectors with high energy saving potential.

By working with UK partners Hastings Borough Council & Groundwork South as well as European partners in France, Germany, Belgium and the Netherlands, SNaB will help to reduce GHG (greenhouse gas) emissions across North West Europe.

The project is called ‘Up Straw.’

The aim of the project is to showcase sustainable building projects with reduced carbon footprints. The UK will build the first building, a straw bale Visitors Centre in Hastings. It will be the first straw building in the Borough and will be a focus for new interpretation and events at the Country Park. 

The project will continue to embed the concept of natural building in the UK by working with schools, colleges and universities and by hosting the European Strawbale gathering (ESBG) in the UK in 2019. 

The partners submitted an initial expression of interest to Interreg North West Europe for the programme in February 2016. Getting through the first round was a major achievement as the application was one of only 4 projects out of 79 applicants under the Low Carbon funding stream that were then invited to submit a further full application. 

The Interreg North West Europe (NWE) Programme is a transnational European Territorial Cooperation Programme funded by the European Commission. The programme mixes public bodies and Voluntary sector organisations and provides support to projects with a funding rate of 60%. The grant is worth approximately 1m euros to the School of Natural Building, the UK’s lead organisation for straw bale building and training, Hastings Borough Council and Groundwork South together with sub partner Strawbale UK (SBUK).

Eileen Sutherland FRSA, one of the Directors of SNaB explained:

‘This project is a significant milestone on the road to sustainable building across NW Europe. By working with other European specialists, SNaB will deliver much needed workforce skills and curriculum innovation in the field of Natural Building. We’re very excited to have the opportunity to work with all our partners and can’t wait to get started and make a difference.'


A mock up of the Hastings Visitors Centre

The School of Natural Building

The School of Natural Building (SNaB), is a not-for-profit enterprise. It was set up by Barbara Jones and Eileen Sutherland of Straw Works in 2014 to train people to a high standard in the use of natural materials.

The School does not have a physical location, although it is working towards taking over the Todmorden Community College. Currently it exists on building sites around the country run by Straw Works Construction, or by self-builders/community groups under the guidance of SNaB. It also inhabits rented venues for one day theoretical courses.

SNaB offers training in natural building for many reasons:

  • to teach the natural builders of the future,
  • to train architects, engineers, and building professionals who want to understand how these materials really work in order to design better buildings,
  • to train building inspectors so they know how to identify good practice
  • for anyone who has a general interest in the subject and wants to know more,
  • for anyone looking for a fun and active way to spend their time. 

The training course is flexible and designed to fit around other life commitments.

SNaB operates an accreditation of prior learning system (APL) which enables previous experience to be taken into account. 

Straw Works

Straw Works is a sisterhood of organisations comprising Straw Works Design, Straw Works Construction, and the School of Natural Building. Straw Works is the UK’s leading design, build and training company using strawbales and other natural materials.

They are currently involved in the first UK registered project for the Living Building Challenge, which was designed by them and is being built for the Cuerden Valley Park Trust, Bamber Bridge by their own volunteers with training and guidance from SNaB. (See lead picture)


The inside of the straw bale build at Cuerden Valley Park Trust

Based in Todmorden, West Yorkshire, they work all over the UK and Europe, and have created hundreds of beautiful and durable residential and commercial buildings. They have been involved in some capacity with more than 500 buildings ranging from tiny garden buildings to the UK’s largest straw bale building to date. People and organisations across Europe benefit from inhabiting these super-insulated, healthy and beautiful spaces.

Some of the advantages of straw bale buildings are:

  • They are durable – with a life span of more than 200 years.
  • They are cost effective – a bale of straw costs about £3.50, stored till you need it and delivered to site. A typical 3 bedroomed house uses approximately 350 bales.
  • They are accessible – most people can learn how to build with straw under expert guidance and tuition. This aspect also leads to cost effectiveness as it is possible to keep labour costs down by self-building.
  • They create a healthy atmosphere in which to live – natural materials are not harmful to health, as they do not off-gas noxious chemicals or fumes. People say they are cosy, warm, comfortable and peaceful places to inhabit, and make you feel nurtured.
  • They are excellent for thermal efficiency, hardly need any heat at all, which adds considerably to comfort levels in the home and also saves on long term running costs. No other insulation material is as cost effective.

Useful links

Building with Straw Bales by Barbara Jones

Watch: Living with the Land: Natural Building