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The solution to Australia’s ‘flammable cladding’ building crisis: Hempcrete

The future of Australian building. Source: Balanced Earth Building Australia

It has been revealed this week that hundreds – if not thousands – of Australian buildings possess the same ‘flammable cladding’ materials seen in the Grenfell fire in London, with body corporate organisations calling on the Federal Government to take preventative action as a result.

Among the calamity, could the solution to ‘Australia’s building crisis’ be right under our noses?

In this opinion piece, Ethan Nash explores the benefits of Hempcrete as an alternative to modern building practices, and highlights some of the great things being done with the product across Australia in 2017.

AUSTRALIAN BUILDING CRISIS:

Four Corners aired a report on Monday that focused on the suppliers, importers and regulators who have allowed the widespread presence of flammable cladding to occur in Australia.

It was revealed in the report that it is becoming increasingly likely that hundreds, if not thousands, of Australian buildings possess flammable cladding materials – as seen in the Grenfell fire in London this June – which is claimed to have been responsible for at least 80 lives.

More than a decade before the tower fire in London, Australian suppliers of aluminium composite cladding knew the product they were selling with a polyethylene (PE) core was highly flammable.

Despite more fire-resistant cladding being widely available in Europe and the USA, the cheaper PE core cladding continued to be installed on medium and high-rise buildings in Australia until 2013.

As a result of this, the peak industry body for Body Corporate and Community Title Management in Australia, says tens of thousands of apartment owners Australia wide are unfairly facing the prospect of a multi-million dollar bill to fix buildings impacted by flammable cladding, and they desperately want to hear from the Federal Government on what support will come for them.

But is the Australian industry overlooking a highly-valuable product that could revolutionise the building industry?

WHY HEMPCRETE??

Derived from hemp, Hempcrete is one of the most thermally-efficient building materials available. As a natural building product, it sequesters carbon dioxide for the life of the building.

Created by simply combining water, sand, hemp aggregate and a lime-based binder, it produces a building product with excellent thermal insulating and acoustic properties:

Cycle of creation. Source: Hempcrete Australia Pty Ltd.

Hempcrete is not just an insulator – it buffers temperature and humidity, prevents damp and mould growth, making the building a comfortable healthy environment.

As opposed to modern day building materials, which are either mined from the earth or harvested from centuries old forests with the adding of flammable polyethylene cladding on the outside, Hemp crops can be harvested annually in perpetuity. One acre of hemp provides as much paper as 4.1 acres of trees!

Related: Hempcreate Australia – Sustainability

Related: Building with Hemp – Fire Test (Video)

To this notion, one ton of manufactured cement (1400–1450 °C) releases 850kg of carbon dioxide into the atmosphere. This is a consequence of the chemical reaction and cannot be reduced by energy saving.

The use of lime instead of cement will save approximately 80% of the CO2 release compared to ordinary cement. One single residence will save between 5,000 and 10,000 lbs of CO2 emissions.

Need to stop Climate Change, don’t we?

More benefits of Hempcrete:

  • Non-toxic
  • No off-gassing
  • No solvents
  • Mold resistance
  • High vapor permeability
  • Humidity control
  • Durable
  • Sustainable
  • Carbon sequestration
  • Fire and pest resistance
  • Passive self regulation of temperature and humidity
  • GREAT insulator

Considering trees take decades to grow and hemp takes about 4 months, the advantages become clear – and it’s already starting to take effect in Australia.

BRYON COMPANY WINS AWARD:

The use of Hempcrete has already started here in Australia, with a Byron Bay company winning a prestigious award for a home that was constructed using Hempcrete at Possum Creek.

The company, Balanced Earth, took out the 2017 Energy Efficient Building award from Master Builders NSW, at a ceremony in Sydney on Saturday.

Balanced Earth was co-founded by award winning architect Michael Leung, previously Twiggy Forrest’s personal architect, and his partner Tiffany Gee, who was adamant there was to be any toxic materials used following the death of her father to mesothelioma (a cancer caused through exposure to asbestos).

“This is when the dream team was put together,” Mr Leung said.

“My mates Ture and Luke, now co-founders of Balanced Earth, suggested we use Hempcrete and recycled timber construction. They ticked all of Tiffany’s boxes: Hemp is a product that is sourced locally from the Hunter Valley, is rendered with non-toxic lime and clay, and has excellent thermal insulating properties.

It took us three months to design and build and looks incredible. Then we realised this was the future of sustainable housing in Australia. Sure, solar panels are great, but when you can get rid of toxic and energy intensive materials, you know you’re onto a winner.”

The company has successful designed and completed multiple Hempcrete projects across Australia and hope to use this as a catalyst for a revolution in Australian building.

Given the current ‘crisis’, we could use the kind of forward-thinking and innovation that Hempcrete provides in Australia.

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RELATED CONTENT:

Australian high-rises swathed in flammable cladding despite suppliers knowing of risks: http://www.abc.net.au/news/2017-09-04/australian-high-rises-swathed-in-flammable-cladding/8862784

Byron shire ‘hempcrete’ building takes out award: https://www.echo.net.au/2017/09/byron-shire-hempcrete-building-takes-award/

House of Hemp – Growers call for a processing plant in WA to supply building industry: http://www.abc.net.au/news/2017-03-06/house-of-hemp-calls-for-a-processing-plant-in-wa/8325130

Hempcrete Australia Pty Ltd: http://www.hempcrete.com.au/index.php?option=com_content&view=featured&Itemid=136

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