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      NATURAL BUILDING MATERIALS IN MAINSTREAM CONSTRUCTION: LESSONS FROM THE U. K.

      , PhD, P.Eng. 1

      Journal of Green Building

      College Publishing

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          INTRODUCTION

          The concepts of “green building” and “sustainable construction” have received tremendous interest in North America in the past decade, as shown by the growth in the numbers of L.E.E.D. certified projects ( Kibert 2005). Parallel to this has been a growing interest in “natural,” “vernacular,” or “traditional” building materials and techniques. Examples of these include straw bale construction and rammed earth construction. From an environmental point of view, these materials offer a low embodied energy and low embodied carbon alternative to conventional building materials such as concrete and steel ( Woolley 2006, Walker 2007). In the case of straw bale construction, use is made of a waste material with excellent insulation properties. Other benefits of many natural materials include their ability to passively regulate humidity in a building, reduced toxicity, high thermal mass, and biodegradability at the end of life ( Walker 2007).

          There remain many barriers to the use of natural building materials in the mainstream construction industry, including a lack of scientific data to quantify their true performance ( Woolley 2006) and lack of experience by the mainstream construction industry in using these materials. This leads to the perception that these materials are lowtech and have poor performance. This perception, however, is changing. There is a growing body of research that is quantifying the performance of natural building materials and showing that they can compete with conventional building materials. There are also some excellent recent examples of the integration of natural building materials in mainstream construction projects.

          This paper describes three natural building material products that have been successfully integrated into mainstream construction projects in the United Kingdom: straw bale panels by ModCell; a hemp-lime composite called “ hemcrete” and marketed by Tradical; and, rammed earth and unfired clay bricks. The information in this paper is based on interviews and site inspections undertaken by the author during February 2008. Some of the research supporting the use of these products will be described. Finally, some lessons and cautions for the use of these products in North America will be discussed.

          A caveat regarding the limitations of this paper is in order. This paper does not claim to be an exhaustive review of natural building materials and their performance. Other references should be consulted for more details on thermal or fire performance, for example.

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          Most cited references 3

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          “The Good Old Ways,”

           P. WALKER (2007)
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            “The design and construction of the 4C’s Building.”

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              “Innovative building material based on lime and hemp particles: From ecological to technical interests.”

               L Arnaud,  D. Samri,  L. ARNAUD (2007)
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                Author and article information

                Journal
                jgrb
                College Publishing
                Journal of Green Building
                College Publishing
                1552-6100
                1943-4618
                1943-4618
                Summer 2008
                : 3
                : 3
                : 1-14
                Author notes

                1Department of Civil Engineering, Queen’s University, Kingston, Ontario, colin@ 123456civil.queensu.ca .

                Article
                jgb.3.3.1
                10.3992/jgb.3.3.1
                ©2008 by College Publishing. All rights reserved.

                Volumes 1-7 of JOGB are open access and do not require permission for use, though proper citation should be given. To view the licenses, visit https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-nc/4.0/

                Page count
                Pages: 12
                Product
                Categories
                INDUSTRY CORNER

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