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Straw ‘OSE’ boards tackle crop burning in Asia

Words:
Stephen Cousins

Pilot micro-factory in Indonesia will produce boards made from waste rice straw, cutting black carbon pollution and enhancing the local supply chain

Research shows straw building materials sequester roughly double the amount of carbon dioxide, per ton, as mass timber.
Research shows straw building materials sequester roughly double the amount of carbon dioxide, per ton, as mass timber.

Straw bales have become a reliable staple of the eco building movement, and now a Swedish start-up is harnessing the crop to create a range of high-strength recyclable building boards intended to speed construction in emerging countries.

Our Ecolution produces interior walls, roof and floor boards made from compressed cereal straw, a byproduct of rice and wheat farming that would otherwise be burnt in fields.

Field burning remains a common global method of removing residues after harvesting crops like maize, rice, wheat, and sugar cane. According to the UN, it’s the world’s largest source of black carbon, a pollutant whose effect on global warming is 460–1,500 times stronger than carbon dioxide, and a threat to human health.

Our Ecolution expects to launch a pilot ‘micro-factory’ in Indonesia in July, based on a model of local low energy production. Boards will be supplied to local construction projects, using local labour and giving local farmers the opportunity to turn agricultural waste into a source of revenue. Another factory is planned in Uruguay.

  • OSE boards are made from compressed cereal straw, a byproduct of rice and wheat farming that would otherwise be burnt in fields.
    OSE boards are made from compressed cereal straw, a byproduct of rice and wheat farming that would otherwise be burnt in fields.
  • OSE boards are made from compressed cereal straw, a byproduct of rice and wheat farming that would otherwise be burnt in fields.
    OSE boards are made from compressed cereal straw, a byproduct of rice and wheat farming that would otherwise be burnt in fields.
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OSE board conforms to British Standard 4046 – compressed strawboard – and is produced in a range of thicknesses, widths, lengths, and densities. A typical board measures 2,400mm by 1200mm by 58mm and weighs 60kg. Suitable for external SIPS wall panels, roofing, flooring, ceilings, linings, partitions and doors, the product is fire resistant, termite resistant, a natural temperature control and sound absorbent.

According to Schneider, OSE is ‘much more dense’ than regular Oriented Strand Board, and the factory compaction process gives it a ‘similar’ structural performance to wood. ‘We just put a layer of paper on top of it so you can paint on it directly,’ said Schneider, ‘carpenters can use all the same tools and sizing is the same as OSB and gypsum boards, so people can build with it in the same way.’

Research by Our Ecolution found that straw building materials absorb roughly twice the amount of carbon dioxide, per ton, from the atmosphere as timber. When the factory in Indonesia is running at full capacity, it will be saving around 50,000 tons of CO2 more than the equivalent amount of cement, said Schneider. RIBAJ requested details of the product’s overall embodied carbon impact.

 

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