Say YES to conscious construction
In the era of climate change and elevated environmental degradation, using materials that are acceptable from an ecological and sustainable perspective is becoming increasingly important. In our current economy, we take materials from the Earth, make products from them, and eventually throw them away as waste – the process is linear. In a circular economy, by contrast, we stop waste from being produced in the first place. Circular Materials could be plastics, natural fibres, metals, etc., that have been recovered from their first/prior use phase. They have been successfully collected, sorted, reprocessed and are ready for the next life-cycle, in a new product.
In a circular economy, waste does not exist and products and raw materials are (designed to be) reused as long and intensively as possible over and over again. Waste is the new raw material.(Source)
Shriti Pandey is a civil engineer with a Master’s degree from New York University and has worked with a US-based construction management company. While she was climbing her way to success in New York, she often felt a sense of responsibility towards her hometown and country. This drove Shriti to quit her job in New York in 2016 and move back to India. While touring rural India, Shriti was inspired by an article that spoke about the circular economy, and that’s when it struck her! There was a problem that she was itching to solve!
Shriti Pandey, the founder of Strawcture Eco Pvt.Ltd was a part of the coveted “Forbes Asia’s 30 under 30” for the year 2021.(Source)
On average, India generates 500 million tonnes of crop residue in a year. A large portion of this remains on the farm and the helpless farmer has no choice but to burn away the residue to prepare for the next harvest. This results in the emission of various greenhouse and other gases. Every year, most of North India succumbs to the reality and consequences of this stubble burning.
Stubble burning is the practice of intentionally setting fire to the straw stubble that remains after grains, such as rice and wheat, have been harvested.(Source)
Strawcture is a company founded by Shriti that manufactures AgriBio Panels which are compressed agrifiber panels made of more than 90% straw and a proprietary binding adhesive and then compressed at a high temperature & pressure. These agri-fibre panels as the building blocks for structures. Panels are made by compressing and processing the potentially hazardous agri-residue, which works in conjunction with a steel framework to give birth to structures that epitomise sustainability. A sustainable alternative to concrete walls and ceilings, fibre panels are made from agricultural waste. These panels are superior alternatives to commonly used materials like fibre cement boards, gypsum, MDF boards etc. These traditional materials emit high levels of VOC ( volatile organic compounds). Volatile Organic Compounds (VOCs) are a large group of chemicals that are found in many products we use to build and maintain our homes. Once these chemicals are in our homes, they are released as “off-gas” into the indoor air we breathe. Breathing VOCs can irritate the eyes, nose and throat, can cause difficulty breathing and nausea, damage the central nervous system and some VOCs have also been proven to be carcinogenic. Strawcture has low levels of VOC emission due to the binding agent used in the panels and can be classified in category A+ by EU standards, which is the best it can be globally. In comparison, most Indian plywoods are a category B.
The agribio panels can be finished as per design or left exposed providing a unique and earthy texture.(Source)
The straw core of the Strawcture board is encased in three layers of recycled paper. After a Strawcture board is installed, the surface is penetrated, and a final finish is applied that prevents rodents from entering the house. Strawcture Eco has the exclusive licence to the technology and works in partnership with a European company, Ekopanely, who are pioneers in the technology. The company has the same vision: making access to homes easier and faster for underprivileged families in urban and rural areas. The panels come in varied thicknesses depending on the application that can range from flooring, false ceiling and even furniture. Strawcture not only reduced the carbon footprint created by the construction industry at all stages but these panels absorb 30 kg of carbon dioxide per m2 of the panels. The application of these panels takes 20% less time as compared to plywood and gypsum, they require no water during installation and are 20% cheaper than traditional brick and mortar. Strawcture manufactures these panels in sizes of 13’x6′ which is arguably one of the biggest panels in the world. The width of 6’ instead of 4’ reduces 15% framing cost for walling & ceiling application and leads to no joints in walling application up to a clear height of 12-13’. The cost of these panels is marginally lower than plywood with a lower impact on the environment. Strawcture has successfully been used in various projects across the country ranging from schools to industrial kitchens and even hospitals.
Strawcture has successfully built hospitals for private clients, government organisations and NGOs.(Source)
Shritis’ goals are clear “ waste is considered waste only if YOU waste it”. She’s paving the path to change how we view our built environment, how we design and more importantly how we can consume less and create more. Strawcture is an innovation that transforms the Indian construction and design market through simplicity, convenience and affordability. The impact of this unique material not only reduces our carbon footprint but also forces us to consider how we want to design in the future.