Problem Addressed

The 2019 Global Status Report for Buildings and Construction published by IEA found that the manufacturing of building components and materials is responsible for 11% of global carbon emissions. These emissions are a significant proportion of the built environment’s embodied carbon. When also factoring in operational carbon and the substantial amount of waste generated by the construction industry, the materials and methods we use to construct our cities and homes must be radically reimagined to reduce the environmental impact that buildings currently incur.

Solution Overview

Natural Building Systems has developed a construction system made with biogenic materials to address embodied emissions, operative emissions, and the waste associated with construction. Their system includes lightweight, breathable insulated wall, roof, and floor panels, which are standardised and designed to be efficiently assembled on site and easily disassembled and reused. Natural Building Systems’ primary innovation is the integration of HempSil, a natural insulation made from hemp, with demountable structural cassettes. During its growth, hemp absorbs up to 14 tonnes of carbon per hectare annually and is a good crop to incorporate into sustainable field rotation strategies. When used as an insulation material, hemp absorbs and desorbs moisture in the air, regulating indoor relative humidity and temperature.

The system is also well suited to address other problems typically attributed to the built environment. The panels themselves are self-similar to reduce costs and waste during production, but they can be combined with each other and bespoke components to provide a great amount of flexibility in design. Natural Building Systems’ panels can be delivered flat-packed or pre-assembled depending on the project needs. Assembly and disassembly are both quick and easy due a patented method of securing panels together using timber pegs and T&G cones. This method also allows reconfigurations or alterations to be made without waste.

Natural Building Systems are committed to the circular economy and even provide BIM material passports for all their products. Currently, this system is limited to 11m high buildings for residential use in the UK, but for non-residential uses it can be used for structures up to 8 stories high when paired with a timber structure.

Case Study

Green Light Trust (GLT) provide training and support for people suffering mental illness, near woodlands and forestry environments. Natural Building Systems were commissioned to design and manufacture the wall and roof elements for a new building, in an under-used car park adjoining woodland near Martlesham, owned by Suffolk County Council. The 100m2 scheme is comprised of two separate buildings linked by an external walkway. One half will serve as a training facility while the other, offices for GLT. Having already obtained planning permission, Natural Building System worked closely with the client’s team to optimise the design to deliver a breathable, low-embodied carbon, circular solution.

The building was partially completed in August 2023 and GLT are now fundraising to finish internal works including MEP services. The alignment in values between Natural Building Systems and Green Light Trust was manifest in the use of entirely natural, regenerative materials to create a high performing, healthy building.

Excluding biogenic carbon, the whole building LCA for A1-A5 is provisionally estimated at only 219kg Ce/m2 pending completion of the fit-out works. Due to the use of primarily natural materials, the biogenic carbon captured during their production accounts for 1.36 tonnes Ce/m2. The superstructure of the building uses entirely natural regenerative materials and is built with pre-manufactured components to allow for disassembly and adaptation. GLT’s focus on Whole Life Cycle carbon impacts (rather than simply operational carbon) informed a design that limited U Value targets in the building’s roof, walls, and floor to 0.18W/m2K, 0.2W/m2K, and 0.18W/m2K respectively while the estimated Energy Use Intensity (EUI) is estimated at 60kWh/m2 per year.

Additional information about this case study can be found at the link below.

Facts and Figures

£1,000 per m2

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