iHemp Building Materials
Concrete-like blocks made with hemp and lime have been used as an insulating material for construction. Such blocks are not strong enough to be used for structural elements; they must be supported by a brick, wood, or steel frame. However, hemp fibres are extremely strong and durable, and have been shown to be usable as a replacement for wood for many jobs, including creating very durable and breathable homes. The most common use of hemp lime in building is by casting the hemp and lime mix while wet around a timber frame with temporary shuttering, and tamping the mix to form a firm mass; after the removal of the temporary shuttering, the solidified hemp mix is then ready to be plastered with a lime plaster.
The first example of the use of hempcrete was in 1986 in France with the renovation of the Maison de la Turquie in Nogent-sur-Seine by the innovator Charles Rasetti. In the UK hemp lime was first used in 2000 for the construction of two test dwellings in Haverhill. Designed by Modece Architects, who pioneered hemp’s use in UK construction, the hemp houses were monitored in comparison with other standard dwellings by BRE. Completed in 2009, the Renewable House is one of the most technologically advanced made from hemp-based materials. The first US home made of hemp-based materials was completed in August 2010 in Asheville, North Carolina.
A panellized system of hemp-lime panels for use in building construction is currently under test in a European Union-funded research collaboration led by the University of Bath. The panels are being designed to assure high-quality construction, rapid on-site erection, optimal hygrothermal performance from day one, and energy- and resource-efficient buildings. The 36-month work program aims to refine product and manufacturing protocols and produce data for certification and marketing, warranty, insurance cover, and availability of finance. It also includes the development of markets in Britain, France, and Spain.
Hemp is used as an internal plaster and is a mixture of hemp hurd (shive) mixed with larger proportions of a lime-based binder. Hemp plaster has insulative qualities.
Hempcrete or Hemplime is bio-composite material, a mixture of hemp hurds (shives) and lime (possibly including natural hydraulic lime, sand, or pozzolans) which is used as a material for construction and insulation. It is marketed under names like Hempcrete, Canobiote, Canosmose, and Isochanvre. Hempcrete is easier to work with than traditional lime mixes and acts as an insulator and moisture regulator. It lacks the brittleness of concrete and consequently does not need expansion joints. The result is a lightweight insulating material ideal for most climates as it combines insulation and thermal mass.
Hempcrete has been used in France since the early 1990s to construct non-weight bearing insulating infill walls, as hempcrete does not have the requisite strength for constructing foundation and is instead supported by the frame. Hempcrete was also used to renovate old buildings made of stone or lime. France continues to be an avid user of hempcrete; it is growing in popularity annually.
Like other plant products, hemp absorbs CO2 from the atmosphere as it grows, retaining the carbon and releasing the oxygen. Theoretically 165 kg of carbon can be absorbed and locked up by 1 m3 of hempcrete wall during manufacture. JustBioFiber claims a sequestration of 130 kg per m³ built.
The typical compressive strength is around 1 MPa, around 1/20 that of residential grade concrete. It is a low density material and resistant to cracking under movement, thus making it highly suitable for use in earthquake-prone areas. Hempcrete walls must be used together with a frame of another material that supports the vertical load in building construction, as hempcrete’s density is 15% that of traditional concrete. Studies in the UK indicate that the performance gain between 9” (22cm) and 12”( 30cm) walls is insignificant. Hempcrete walls are fireproof, transmit humidity, resist mold, and have excellent acoustic performance.
Limecrete, Ltd. (UK) reports a fire resistance rating of 1 hour per British/EU standards.
In the United States, permits are needed for the use of hemp in building.
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