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Unitec Students Turn 'Straw into Gold' with BuildNZ Exhibit

  • Unitec's Straw into Gold team

Unitec Architecture students are shining the spotlight on climate change and better building practices with the creation of a straw bale house for the annual BuildNZ design exhibition being held at the ASB Showgrounds from June 23-25.

Set in the context of current housing needs and the fact that New Zealand produces some of the world’s highest yields of grain (and consequently straw), the Straw into Gold project explores the possibilities of using home-grown building materials to address the critical issue of climate change.  Through the project, Unitec Architecture students are also exploring the use of prefabricated timber and straw wall panels for mainstream house construction.

A one third scale model of a small habitable structure, Straw into Gold shows the possibilities of the construction method and opens up discussions about local circular economies, community empowerment and the need for a holistic approach to architecture that acknowledges the idea that resources are crucial and need to be conserved.   

“Low carbon materials have a crucial part to play in creating a truly sustainable built environment,” said Unitec School of Architecture lecturer Min Hall, who, together with fellow lecturer Magdalena Garbarczyk, is running a series of elective courses at the School.

“The project originated from our desire to take a hands-on approach to teaching sustainability,” said Magda.  “Min and I were both working independently on different ways to tackle sustainability in an educational context and decided to join forces to reach a wider audience of students.

“We believe that the process of ‘making’ demystifies sustainable building and empowers students and the wider community to become advocates for better building practices. This is absolutely necessary in the face of climate change,” added Magda.

Straw into Gold is also a component of Project Pātūtū, a larger research project led by Min Hall that investigates using prefabricated strawbale structurally insulated panels for house construction in New Zealand. 

In addition to the Straw into Gold project, Unitec is also collaborating with PrefabNZ to display a prefabricated LVL product stand that was originally built by the Women in Fabrication team for Carter Holt Harvey’s Futurebuild LVL brand.   Unitec’s workshop technicians also collaborated with Abodo to sponsor and fabricate the display plinths for the Snug Competition.

Unitec’s exhibits can be found on Stand 214 in the Innovation Quarter at BuildNZ 2019, ASB Showgrounds, Auckland from 23-25 June 2019.


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