Boffins yesterday unveiled plans to prevent housing prices from getting too high – by making them out of Cannabis plants.
It is hoped that using hemp to build homes will provide a sustainable and low cost method of meeting the growing pressure on housing needs.
Researchers at the University of Bath have built a one-storey property – called the HemPod – using fibres from the plant mixed with lime.
Now they will be analysing the structure to see if can be adopted by future builders who could adopt hemp to build homes in the future.
Dr Mike Lawrence, Research Officer from the University’s Department of Architecture and Civil Engineering, said: ”The HemPod will be the first hemp-lime building to be constructed purely for scientific testing.
”We will be closely monitoring the house for 18 months using temperature and humidity sensors buried in the walls, measuring how quickly heat and water vapour travels through them.
”The walls are breathable and act as a sort of passive air-conditioning system, meaning that the internal humidity is kept constant and the quality of the air within the house is very good.
”The walls also have a ‘virtual thermal mass’ because of the remarkable pore structure of hemp shiv combined with the properties of the lime binder, which means the building is much more thermally efficient and the temperature inside the house stays fairly constant.”
A consortium, led by the BRE1 Centre for Innovative Construction Materials based at the university, has found that hemp contains an array of eco-friendly properties.
The hemp shiv traps air in the walls, and the hemp itself is porous, making the walls incredibly well insulated.
Lime-based binder sticks together and protects the hemp to make the building material highly fire resistant.
The industrial hemp plant takes in carbon dioxide as it grows, with the lime render absorbing even more of the climate change gas, effectively giving the building an extremely low carbon footprint.
Now boffins have constructed a small building on the Claverton campus at the University of Bath using hemp-lime to test its properties as a building material, which they will study.
Professor Pete Walker, Director of the BRE Centre for Innovative Construction Materials, added: ”The aim of the project is to provide some robust data to persuade the mainstream building industry to use this building material more widely.
”Hemp grows really quickly; it only takes the area the size of a rugby pitch to grow enough hemp in three months to build a typical three-bedroom house.
”Using renewable crops to build houses can also provide economic benefits to rural areas by opening up new agricultural markets.
”Farmers can grow hemp during the summer as a break crop between their main food crops, it doesn?t need much water and can be grown organically.
”Every part of the plant can be used, so there?s no waste- the shiv is used for building, the fibres can make car panels, clothing or paper, and the seeds can be used for food or oil. So it’s a very efficient, renewable material.
”Lime has been used in construction for millennia, and combining it with industrial hemp is a significant development in the effort to make construction more sustainable.”