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Hemp-Clay: towards zero-carbon housing

Hemp-Clay: towards zero-carbon housing

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Published by Ruth Busbridge
The monolithic walls of hemp-lime construction enclose and protect a structural timber frame and provide a breathable construction that meets UK building regulations through largely passive means. The absence of toxic or synthetic materials ensures a healthy living environment.
The eco-credentials of hemp and its ability to sequester carbon are reviewed and are found to be convincing. However the high embodied energy and carbon dioxide emissions associated with lime limit the potential of the method for carbon sequestration. The literature on light-earth construction is reviewed drawing particularly on German experience, and the parallels between the two methods are highlighted. The main experimental research focuses on the thermal properties of stabilised and unstabilised hemp-clay blocks which are tested using a transient heat-transfer probe to measure thermal conductivity, volumetric heat capacity and derive thermal diffusivity and effusivity. Rudimentary compressive strength tests are also conducted. Results are compared with published values for hemp-lime and found to be similar.
A discussion of the results assesses the use of clay as an alternative binder in the hempbinder method, and concludes that it has potential to reduce the environmental impact of the method and facilitate the move towards zero-carbon housing.
The monolithic walls of hemp-lime construction enclose and protect a structural timber frame and provide a breathable construction that meets UK building regulations through largely passive means. The absence of toxic or synthetic materials ensures a healthy living environment.
The eco-credentials of hemp and its ability to sequester carbon are reviewed and are found to be convincing. However the high embodied energy and carbon dioxide emissions associated with lime limit the potential of the method for carbon sequestration. The literature on light-earth construction is reviewed drawing particularly on German experience, and the parallels between the two methods are highlighted. The main experimental research focuses on the thermal properties of stabilised and unstabilised hemp-clay blocks which are tested using a transient heat-transfer probe to measure thermal conductivity, volumetric heat capacity and derive thermal diffusivity and effusivity. Rudimentary compressive strength tests are also conducted. Results are compared with published values for hemp-lime and found to be similar.
A discussion of the results assesses the use of clay as an alternative binder in the hempbinder method, and concludes that it has potential to reduce the environmental impact of the method and facilitate the move towards zero-carbon housing.

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Published by: Ruth Busbridge on May 28, 2009
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Ruth BusbridgeMSC Architecture: AdvancedEnvironment & Energy StudiesJanuary 2009
Graduate School of the EnvironmentCentre for Alternative Technology,MachynllethPowysSY20 9AZTel: 01654 705981School of Computing and TechnologyUniversity of East LondonDocklands Campus4-6 University WayLondonE16 2RDTel: 0208 223 3000
 
 
Hemp-Clay: an initial investigationinto the thermal, structural andenvironmental credentials of monolithic clay and hemp walls.
Abstract
The benefits of hemp-lime construction are discussed. Its monolithic walls enclose andprotect a structural timber frame and provide a breathable construction that meets UKbuilding regulations through largely passive means. The absence of toxic or syntheticmaterials ensures a healthy living environment.The eco-credentials of hemp and its ability to sequester carbon are reviewed and are foundto be convincing. However the high embodied energy and carbon dioxide emissionsassociated with lime limit the potential of the method for carbon sequestration. Theliterature on light-earth construction is reviewed drawing particularly on Germanexperience, and the parallels between the two methods are highlighted.The main experimental research focuses on the thermal properties of stabilised and un-stabilised hemp-clay blocks which are tested using a transient heat-transfer probe tomeasure thermal conductivity, volumetric heat capacity and derive thermal diffusivity andeffusivity. Rudimentary compressive strength tests are also conducted. Results arecompared with published values for hemp-lime and found to be similar.A discussion of the results assesses the use of clay as an alternative binder in the hemp-binder method, and concludes that it has potential to reduce the environmental impact of the method and facilitate the move towards zero-carbon housing.
 
Ruth Busbridge, Jan 2009 AcknowledgementsThesis, MSc Architecture: Advanced Environment and Energy Studies
Acknowledgements
I would like to express my thanks to the team on the MSc for their excellent tuition andsupport. In particular, I am grateful to Mike Thompson for provoking us and forcing us tochallenge every assumption; and to Ranyl , my tutor, for his help and enthusiasm, andcopious feedback.My thanks are also due to Tarmac for supplying me with a generous free sample of quicklime, and to Coleford Brick Company in the Forest of Dean, in particular to TimWalton, for supplying me with clay and a warm welcome. To Pete Lawley for introducingme to the joys of quicklime and showing me that it isn’t as scary as it sounds. To my fellowMSc students for sharing their ideas, essays and theses. To Jane Horton for her generousand helpful proofreading.Finally, I am indebted to my partner Brett, for his proofreading, patience, support , and histolerance of hemp-clay chaos.

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