Bath University researchers believe that hemp, a plant from the cannabis family, could be used to build carbon-neutral homes of the future to help combat climate change.
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.
Prof Pete Walker, director of the BRE Centre for Innovative Construction Materials, said: ’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 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, Feilden Clegg Bradley Studio architects, Hanson Cement, Hemcore, Lhoist UK, Lime Technology, National Non-Food Crops Centre, Bath University and Wates Living Space.
As part of the project, Bath University received a research grant of £391,000 from the Renewable Materials LINK programme run by the Department for Environment, Food & Rural Affairs (DEFRA).