Visitor centre artist's impressionSince 2019 Huff and Puff Construction have been hard at work on an exciting project to deliver a new flagship straw-bale building for Hastings Borough Council – a new Visitor centre at Hastings Country Park. This centre will house information about the park, its habitats, geology, heritage and species, together with a café and new toilet facilities. It will also provide an excellent facility for visitors to find out about the landscape in which it is situated, and will act as a useful resource for community activities, including those for school children and family events.

Getting this project and plan literally ‘off the ground’ and constructing a building of this nature, however, takes a lot of teamwork. Huff and Puff Construction have collaborated and worked in partnership with many teams, to deliver this building, including the following organisations and groups that have helped make it possible:

Hastings Borough Council is a lead UK partner in the UPStraw project, and the project client.

UP STRAW is a collaborative approach to creating straw awareness and use (see more below).  It includes participants, many of whom are part of the European Straw Building Association (ESBA)  ESBA is an independent, not for profit, European association. Its aim is to promote and develop the use of straw, as a sustainable way of building in all the senses of the term “sustainable”: renewable, ecological, healthy, energy and climate efficient, social and economic.

    SBUK is a membership organisation whose aim is to promote straw bale building and best practice in the UK. SBUK is a member of ESBA.

    Constrawtium is a group of SBUK members – including Huff and Puff Construction – who have come together to collaborate on this build and show that we scale up straw bale building in the UK.

      What is UP STRAW? 

      The Visitor Centre project was funded by Hastings Borough Council together with a funding award from Interreg North West Europe. The Interreg award is part of an innovative project called ‘UP STRAW’ which is increasing awareness of straw-bale building across North West Europe. The project aims to promote straw as a premium biobased sustainable building material that, when used to construct buildings, has the ability to significantly reduce the resulting buildings carbon footprint. The new centre will be the first straw-bale building in the borough of Hastings and the first built as part of the UP STRAW project, which will also see a public building constructed with straw in each of the five project countries; UK, France, Belgium, Germany and the Netherlands. UP STRAW partners are also working to increase straw bale building skills and awareness within the construction industry.

      So, how did the Hastings build come to life? 

      UP STRAW project visit 2017Straw-bale Building UK (SBUK) are a UK sub-partner in the UP STRAW project.

      Back in September 2017, Huff and Puff Construction Managing Director, Phil Christopher, who is also on the board of SBUK, attended an UP STRAW meeting held by Hastings Borough Council – a lead UK partner in the UP STRAW project.  Hastings Borough Council’s ambition, led by Environment and Natural Resources Manager, Murray Davidson, was to build a flagship straw building in the UK – a new visitor centre at Hastings Country Park.

      With currently so few straw bale builders in the UK, finding companies capable of taking on such a large project as the Hastings build was difficult.  It was at this meeting that Phil, along with SBUK colleagues, suggested SBUK members be asked to come together as a consortium to deliver such projects. 

      In 2018 a handful of SBUK members, including Huff and Puff Construction under the team name Constrawtium, came together to bid for the contract to deliver the Hastings project and were awarded the contract in December 2018.  Read more about the consortium in this previous post:  

      Work then started on site in mid-May 2019 and we are on target for completion by the end of 2020.

      Why a Straw Bale building?

      The centre will be the first public building in Hastings to be built using straw bales. Straw is a renewable material with great insulation properties. It allows the building to breathe naturally, keeping it cool in summer and warm in winter without the need for additional heating. By building with straw, the aim is to keep the carbon footprint of the building as low as possible in keeping with Hastings Borough Council’s aim and desire for sustainable management of the surrounding nature reserve. 

      Follow our progress as we head for completion.

      We’ll keep you posted over the coming weeks about our progress, as we head into the final stages of the build. Keep up to date and follow us on FaceBook – or Twitter @HuffPuffCons for regular Visitor Centre build updates.