Houses of straw

BathUniversityresearchers are proposing that houses built using hemp, timber or straw could greatly reduce the environmental pollutants generated by the construction industry.

Building work and associated infrastructure currently contribute around 19 per cent of the UK’s total harmful waste.

Members of Bath’s BRE Centre for Innovative Construction Materials are researching low-carbon alternatives to building materials currently used by the construction industry.

Timber is used as a construction material much less in the UK than in other countries. Researchers at the centre are developing new ways of using timber and other renewable crop-based materials such as hemp, natural-fibre composites and straw bales.

Prof Peter Walker, Bath BRE director, who is leading the research, said: ‘The environmental impact of the construction industry is huge. For example, it is estimated that, worldwide, the manufacture of cement contributes up to 10 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 the 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.’