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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 emissions across North West Europe.

The project is called ‘Up Straw’ and the aim 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.

A mock up of the Visitors Centre in Hastings 

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)


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.'


SNaB, a not-for-profit enterprise, was set up by two RSA fellows, Eileen Sutherland & Barbara Jones in 2014 to train people to a high standard in the use of natural materials. SNaB is passionate about encouraging ordinary people, especially women, onto the building site. Natural Building is a tremendously empowering experience, and also a lot of fun!

Strawbale buildings are good because:

  • 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.

If any fellows are interested in being involved in this project please contact Eileen Sutherland – see RSA profile.


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