Stemergy: Renewable Fibre Technology

Rapid growth in hemp-based construction

17 November 2009

A visit to the Innovation Park at BRE in Watford has been arranged as part of the Natural Fibres 09 conference, which takes place at the Institute of Materials, Minerals and Mining in London from December 14-16.

The park showcases modern methods of construction and features over 200 different emerging technologies in a number of demonstration properties, including the Renewable Hemp House.

Speaking at the 60th annual congress of CELC – the European Confederation of Flax and Hemp – which took place in Strasbourg, France, from November 4-7, Claude Eichwald of French organisation Construire de Chanvre, said that the use of hemp in concrete was growing, with between 2-4,000 houses now constructed completely from hemp concrete, and many more employing it with mixtures of other building materials. The CELC conference also heard from Rémi Perrin of Strasbourg-based Soprema, which is now manufacturing flax roofing membranes, and Vincent de Sutter of Sutter Freres which has been making natural-fibre based door panels for almost 50 years.

The Renewable House meets level 4 of the UK Government's Code for Sustainable Homes – a national standard that measures the sustainability of homes against a set of design categories such as energy consumption and building materials. The Government's target was for all homes from 2016 to be built against Code Level 3 standards.

The house's performance is being monitored over a three year period in order to establish evidence of the performance characteristics and the sustainability profile of the renewable building materials. It is anticipated the development will demonstrate that low costs and renewable building methods are compatible and together they provide a viable method of delivering sustainable, affordable homes.

In the latest copy of its journal, CELC outlines the components of a house entirely constructed from natural fibres, as show in the illustration above.

The unique energy efficient house made from hemp at the UK BRE Innovation Park meanwhile, showcases the future of low carbon and sustainable buildings.

The three bedroom Renewable House, which costs £75,000 to build (not including ground works or utilities), uses renewable materials to deliver a well designed, yet low cost, affordable home.

The external walls are constructed from Hemcrete, provided by manufacturer Lime Technology, made from hemp plants grown and harvested in the UK and lime based binder.

It is estimated the carbon footprint of this house will be around 20 tonnes lower than a traditional brick and block house. The hemp absorbs around five tonnes of carbon dioxide from the atmosphere during its rapid growth period, which then becomes locked into the fabric of the building, making the thermal Hemp-Line walling solution ‘carbon negative'.

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About Stemergy

Stemergy bio-fiber is focused on producing and supplying renewable bio-fibres - derived from annual stem fiber plants such as flax and hemp - to the expanding global bio-fiber marketplace.