Houses made of hemp could help combat climate change!

27 10 2009

professor pete walker - university of bath

We have recently come across this very interesting press release from Professor Peter Walker at the University of Bath (U.K) who is leading the research into the use of hemp-lime in construction.  Buildings and other infrastructure currently accounts for almost 20% of the UK’s eco-footprint.  This is another example of how this wonderful plant can help save reduce carbon dioxide emissions.  Recently we brought you the news that Hanes – one of the worlds biggest consumer brands – has been investing in a new hemp technology called Crailar which requires only a fraction of the water needed to make cotton; and we are very happy to announce that it is the subject of another of our articles, a Dutch company called Hempflax who has won the contract to supply the raw materials to Hanes – i.e. the HEMP!

Here’s the press release:

Houses made of hemp, timber or straw could help combat climate change by reducing the carbon footprint of building construction, according to researchers at the University of Bath.

Currently the construction industry is a major contributor of environmental pollutants, with buildings and other build infrastructure contributing to around 19% of the UK’s eco-footprint.  Researchers at the BRE Centre for Innovative Construction Materials are researching low carbon alternatives to building materials currently used by the construction industry.  Although timber is used as a building material in many parts of the world, historically it is used less in the UK than in other countries. Researchers at the Centre are developing new ways of using timber and other crop-based materials such as hemp, natural fibre composites and straw bales. Their work using straw bales as a building material has already been featured on Channel 4’s Grand Designs series.

Professor Peter Walker, Director of the Centre, is leading the research. He said: “The environmental impact of the construction industry is huge. For example, it is estimated that worldwide the manufacture of cement contributes up to ten per cent of all industrial carbon dioxide emissions.  “We are looking at a variety of low carbon building materials including crop-based materials, innovative uses of traditional materials and developing low carbon cements and concretes to reduce impact of new infrastructure. As well as reducing the environmental footprint, many low carbon building materials offer other benefits, including healthier living through higher levels of thermal insulation and regulation of humidity levels.”

Their research is being presented at the Sustainable Energy & the Environment showcase at the University of Bath.  The exhibition will be opened by David Willetts MP, Shadow Secretary of State for Innovation, Universities & Skills, and will be attended by industrialists, research councils, local and national government representatives and other key stakeholders from across the South West.  The exhibition coincides with the launch of the Institute for Sustainable Energy & the Environment (I-SEE) at the University of Bath, which will bring together experts from diverse fields of science, engineering, social policy and economics to tackle the problems of climate change.

I  found another article on the subject which can be read here:

Hemp could be used to build carbon-neutral homes of the future to help combat climate change and boost the rural economy, say researchers at the University of Bath.

A consortium, led by the BRE Centre for Innovative Construction Materials based at the University, has embarked on a unique housing project to develop the use of hemp-lime construction materials in the UK.  Hemp-lime is a lightweight composite building material made of fibres from the fast growing plant, bound together using a lime-based adhesive. The hemp plant stores carbon during its growth and this, combined with the low carbon footprint of lime and its very efficient insulating properties, gives the material a ‘better than zero carbon’ footprint.  Professor Pete Walker, Director of the BRE Centre for Innovative Construction Materials, explained: “We will be looking at the feasibility of using hemp-lime in place of traditional materials, so that they can be used widely in the building industry.  “We will be measuring the properties of lime-hemp materials, such as their strength and durability, as well as the energy efficiency of buildings made of these materials.  Using renewable crops to make building materials makes real sense – it only takes an area the size of a rugby pitch four months to grow enough hemp to build a typical three bedroom house.  Growing crops such as hemp (cannabis Sativa) can also provide economic and social benefits to rural economies through new agricultural markets for farmers and associated industries.”

The three year project, worth almost £750,000, will collect vital scientific and engineering data about this new material so that it can be more widely used in the UK for building homes.  The project brings together a team of nine partners, comprising BRE Ltd, Feilden Clegg Bradley Studio architects, Hanson Cement, Hemcore, Lhoist UK, Lime Technology, National Non-Food Crops Centre, University of Bath and Wates Living Space.  As part of the project the University of Bath received a research grant of £391,000 from the Renewable Materials LINK programme run by the Department for Environment, Food & Rural Affairs (DEFRA).

Source:  http://www.bath.ac.uk

Heres the link to the article about Hanes investing in Hemp


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