Next to the transport and energy production sectors, the construction industry is the third-largest contributor to the environmental threat our world is facing today. Factoring in transport and energy, 39% of global energy is used in production, and nearly 40% of energy-related Co2 emissions come from the construction industry. This has become a significant contributor to climate change and global warming.
The inefficient use of energy, extensive depletion of natural resources, and vast production of non-biodegradable waste during construction are harming our environment. So, it has become vital that we shift our construction policies and methods to more reliable and greener or sustainable choices.
When we say ‘greener’ or ‘sustainable’ choices in construction, we are mainly referring to the adoption of building materials made from renewable resources that have longevity and does not exhaust our natural reserves. Ideally, these green building materials would consume less energy, water, and labour for production. Most importantly, should be non-toxic to the environment.
Buildings should be designed and constructed by substituting mineral aggregate materials with bio-aggregates or plant-based renewable materials. This initiative to use eco-friendly building materials can lead to a drastic reduction of the carbon footprint from construction.
Our favourite bio-aggregate building material is known as Hempcrete – a unique bio-fibre composed of three simple components; hemp, lime, and water. It is a lightweight product historically used for timber frame infill, roofing tiles, insulation, renders, and floor slabs.
Though it is not load-bearing, it is a highly functional building material with considerable environmental benefits. Read further to understand the benefits of Hempcrete on the environment as a sustainable, eco-friendly building material.
Hempcrete is a carbon storehouse with a negative carbon footprint or “better-than-zero-carbon”, making it a perfect eco-friendly building material. The amount of carbon absorbed from the atmosphere by hemp farming is higher than the amount of greenhouse gas emitted during Hempcrete production and application in construction. This sequestration makes it a “carbon-negative” product.
Depending upon the type, source of material, and application technique, the amount of carbon sequestered varies. Estimates show that about two tonnes of carbon dioxide is absorbed from the atmosphere and locked away in a tonne of harvested hemp fibre while the amount of carbon released during production and lifespan of Hempcrete is much less.
While there are many other plant-based building materials like timber, bamboo, etc. which are renewable, these take years to produce an adequate yield. In contrast, hemp plants grow tall and fast very quickly, with a plentiful yield of fibre. Once you factor in that hemp can be grown year-round, in some areas, and in around four months or approximately 100 days, where they reach full growth and are ready to harvest – It’s no wonder hemp is now widely being considered an environmental & economical alternative to traditional building materials.
The hemp plant can replenish itself every year. It requires little water for growth. It is a low field maintenance crop, making it a dependable renewable raw material that is readily available anywhere in sufficient quantities for production. Its sustainability as an agricultural commodity decreases the consumption of other natural resources in construction, which further benefits our environment by supporting forest conservation of other timber.
These plants require a meagre amount of fertilizers for growth. Further, they are deep-rooted and return their nutrients to the ground after harvest. This aids in natural soil conditioning, making them an ideal break crop to sow between seasons. They also grow faster than weeds and hence are a great weed suppressant. Hemp also acts as a phytoremediator, with purification properties that can remove lead, toxins, radiation, and other contaminants from the soil.
Furthermore, as a product, Hempcrete does not release any off-gas and has no ill effects on the indoor environment. It is a naturally antimicrobial and antifungal material that is mould-resistant and helps in sustaining cleaner surroundings.
Hemp grows all over the world in most soil types where the climate is not too arid. Growing the crop locally ensures savings in the fuel required for the transportation of materials. This is especially true when compared to other conventional building materials which are manufactured using non-renewable resources and fossil fuels that use energy-intensive processes.
In comparison, hempcrete production requires low energy consumption by using locally grown renewable materials. Thus, saving a considerable amount of fuel and energy and preventing ‘green-washing engaged in the transportation of raw materials and end products across continents.
Further, Hempcrete has a low thermal conductivity, allowing it to regulate the temperature and humidity inside the building naturally. Its excellent thermal properties enable reduced heating and cooling requirements of a building, thereby saving fuel and making the construction energy efficient.
Hempcrete is a fully bio-degradable and recyclable material. It can completely decompose, and hence, when demolished, hempcrete building material will not end up in a landfill polluting our environment. Being a natural and chemical-free substance makes it suitable for recycling multiple times in different ways or decompose to enrich our soil.
Hempcrete is a unique eco-friendly building material that serves as an excellent alternative to traditional concrete and other insulation materials in construction. Boasting a negative carbon footprint, enormous savings in energy and fuel involved in manufacturing, excellent phytoremediation property that enables toxin removal from the soil, the benefits to the environment from this product are vast.
Its production and application are harmless to the environment, and most of all, biodegradability ensures it does not harm our world even when demolished. Incorporating this sustainable material in your building can reduce the negative impacts of construction on the environment.
If you’re going for sustainable green building – Choose Hempcrete! If you have been thinking about using hemp as a building material, or want to learn more, be sure to check out our Hemp Building Company here: Hemp Homes Australia