The Renewable House is a timber frame house with hemp-lime walls. (Credit: Image from the National Non-Food Crops Centre) Britain's University of Bath's Department of Architecture and Civil Engineering, its Department of Mechanical Engineering, and the Building Research Establishment Ltd (BRE) formed a partnership in 2006 to conduct research on innovative and sustainable construction materials and to provide knowledge and leadership to the building industry.
One of the materials the BRE group has been studying is a hemp-lime composite, and it is now embarking on a three year project to persue more focused research on the material as a source to replace timber, cement, and other products currently used in constructing homes and buildings. BRE will be joined by private and public sector groups including experts in non-food crops, building materials, and architects.
It is estimated that about 19 percent of Britain's carbon footprint comes from construction and the production of construction materials. Hemp, a member of the cannabis family, does not release carbon; it actually stores it. And lime production emits very little carbon. Together hemp and lime would make what researchers say is a 'better than zero carbon' solution, because the composite also has insulating properties and they would obviate the need for additional insulation.
According to the researchers, hemp and other naturally grown products would produce a healthier living environment with "higher levels of thermal insulation and regulation of humidity levels.” Additionally, hemp growing would create new viability for farmers in Britain.
"... It only takes an area the size of a rugby pitch four months to grow enough hemp to build a typical three bedroom house," said Professor Pete Walker, Director of the BRE Center.
Science Daily (April 13, 2009); Science Daily (September 17, 2008); BRE Centre for Innovative Construction Materials