All designs by Barbara Jones/Amazon Nails/amazonails/Straw Works have been totally cement-free for 20 years, especially the foundations.  All meet current building regulation standards. They are also almost plastic free apart from water carrying pipes and electrical cables, for these we aim to use pvc-free. All are made from at least 85% natural and low-embodied energy materials: straw, timber, lime, clay, natural insulations (sheepswool, recycled paper and cotton, hemp, woodfibre etc) and recycled foamglass. 

Outback Centre, Halifax

Designed by amazonails in 2009/10 and built by amazonails/Straw Works and Frank Fielden Joiners in 2011, this is a well-loved and well-used Community Centre housing a commercial kitchen and disabled access toilets within a large vegetable garden. Users remark on its wonderful ambience and love the organic feel of its natural materials.  

Points to note: 

  • Timber post foundations – recycled telegraph poles – into made-up ground 
  • Clay internal plaster – agreed after discussion with Environmental Health as clay is an extremely healthy material for kitchens, absorbing toxins and smells and combatting mould and condensation – but was not at the time listed as an approved material  
  • Loadbearing straw walls, external lime plaster, courses to build walls and to plaster 


Shelf Library, Halifax 

Designed by Calderdale Council in 2007/8 with specialist consultancy by Barbara Jones, now of Straw Works. Built by local contractors with straw walls and lime plaster by amazonails in 2009. 

Points to note: 

  • Successful collaboration between a Local Authority, local builders and specialist design/training company, amazonails
  • The humidity regulation properties of the clay plastered internal walls are perfect for libraries and museums through their natural management of moisture vapour.
  • Most people don’t believe/know it is made of straw…. 


Inspire Business Park 

Very large buildings using straw as insulation – 14 serviced offices and 14 workspaces with a community facility in two buildings totalling 2,787 m2 (30,000 sq ft). Also featuring meeting rooms, a café, digital media suite and childcare facilities. Built for Newlands Community Association in 2012 by Stainforth Construction 

Points to note: 

  • Build cost £4 million, with major grant funding 
  • ModCell panels -made from pre-fabricated straw bales 
  • Inno-Therm panels – made from recycled denim 
  • Very successful business 


Ecology Building Society 

The Boardroom, a circular loadbearing straw annex to the main EBS headquarters (also very ‘green’), was built in 2005, by Amazon Nails through a series of training courses for the Building Society’s staff, its members and the local community.  As always, the EBS puts its money where its mouth is, supports and pioneers sustainable building practice. They offer mortgages for strawbale houses, and always have done. 

Points to note: 

  • The first modern building to use Building Control approved cement-free traditional shallow foundations. Design by Barbara Jones based on centuries of similar foundations in Yorkshire and the UK.
  • Recycled foamglas chunks as a capillary break instead of plastic 
  • Limecrete solid floor instead of concrete 
  • Successfully argued that design would deal with low level radon instead of a plastic barrier 


Cuerden Valley Park Visitor Centre (CVP)

The UK’s first Living Building Challenge registered building, the most exacting environmental standard in the world . Designed by Straw Works in 2015/16, built by volunteers from CVP with mentoring and courses by the School of Natural Building (SNaB) between 2017-19. 

Points to note 

  • Rammed Car tyre foundations. Since these were built we have successfully won the argument with engineers to use pea shingle instead of MOT type 1 to ram fill the tyres (very much easier and quicker).  
  • Tyre stacks will hold a minimum of 1000kN/m2 of load (for most projects only 150kN/m2 is required)  
  • Lime plaster inside and out 
  • The building is so successful that it had as many new visitors in the first 3 months as were expected in the first year! 
  • Shortlisted for ASBP sustainable design awards 2019