Houses made of hemp, timber or straw could help combat climate change by reducing the carbon footprint of building construction, according to researchers at the University of Bath.
Currently the construction industry is a major contributor of environmental pollutants, with buildings and other build infrastructure contributing to around 19% of the UK’s eco-footprint.
Researchers at the BRE Centre for Innovative Construction Materials are researching low carbon alternatives to building materials currently used by the construction industry. Their research is one of the projects being presented at the Sustainable Energy & the Environment showcase on Wednesday 17 September at the University of Bath.
Although timber is used as a building material in many parts of the world, historically it is used less in the UK than in other countries. Researchers at the centre are developing new ways of using timber and other crop-based materials such as hemp, natural fibre composites and straw bales. Their work using straw bales as a building material has already been featured on Channel 4’s Grand Designs series.
Professor Peter Walker, Director of the Centre, is leading the research. He said: “The environmental impact of the construction industry is huge. For example, it is estimated that worldwide the manufacture of cement contributes up to ten 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 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.”
The exhibition will be opened by David Willetts MP, Shadow Secretary of State for Innovation, Universities & Skills, and will be attended by industrialists, research councils, local and national government representatives and other key stakeholders from across the South West.
The showcase coincides with the launch of the Institute for Sustainable Energy & the Environment (I-SEE) at the University of Bath, which will bring together experts from diverse fields of science, engineering, social policy and economics to tackle the problems of climate change.