Growing up in an environmentally conscious household, it was perhaps only natural that Stephen Vardy would choose for his doctoral work the study of one of the oldest, most organic forms of building materials: the humble straw-bale.
This ancient method of construction has the potential to dramatically reduce residential energy consumption, and building construction costs. Building with this abundant and sustainable resource also provides many spin-off environmental benefits by reducing the need for logging and milling new lumber.
From agriculture history to modern engineering, Stephen's studies at Queen's explore the structural properties and societal benefits of straw-bale insulated dwellings. Not only are straw-bales cost-effective and environmentally friendly, they have an insulation rating double that of normal wood stud walls. The result, says Stephen, is that "what you would save in the heating of a straw-bale house is even more significant than what you would save in construction."
Tests have shown the straw-bale walls to be equally as strong as ordinary wood stud construction. Stephen hopes his research will provide in-depth knowledge base for builders so that straw-bale techniques can be applied on a wider scale, against many types of structures.
Focusing his graduate studies on something other than the typical "concrete or steel," Stephen was thrilled to find a supervisor in Civil Engineering at Queen's University as interested and excited as he was about such a unique and relatively unexplored topic. His work is a simple but powerful demonstration of how it is possible to build a home that can save energy and money, but also help save our planet in the process.