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Construction materials from the Bio-Economy

Building Materials from the BioEconomy
On the 11th of September the Irish Hub ran an event focused on new building materials developed from the bioeconomy. Attracting building specifiers and suppliers the event generated considerable discussions around the use of natural fibres for insulation and around utilisation of Cross Laminated Timber (MASS Timber) construction methods. New building regulations designed to lower heating demands are successfully lowering the carbon emissions of our building stock, by using natural materials there is much greater potential to reduce the imbedded carbon emissions from traditional building materials.

Morning Session

The morning session focused on regulations and research. First speaker Orla Coyle from the SEAI spoke about the Member State requirements for all new non-domestic buildings to meet NZEB (Near Zero Energy Building) by 2021, and for all new buildings used by the public service to meet the standard by 2019. Pat Barry of the Irish Green Building Council (IGBC) then spoke on life cycle analysis (LCA) and Environmental Product Declaration (EPD) of building materials. The IGBC are developing software tools to assist material manufacturers and building engineers to be able to properly prepare and utilize EPD’s, the IGBC will be holding events in October to further peoples understanding of preparing EPD’s. The final speaker of the morning session was Dr Mohammed Sonebi from Queens University Belfast who spoke extensively on the overall challenge facing the world population in meeting our housing needs while working within the resources of the planet. Further to this challenge he outlined the potential from plant aggregates (e.g. hempcrete) to provide construction materials with properties such as low to negative embedded carbon, insulation properties and internal climate stabilization.

Second Session

The second session focused on specific materials with proven usage. First speaker Annette Harte of NUI Galway spoke about mass timber construction, essentially mass timber construction is where solid timber panels are produced from cross laminated timber and used for high rise construction, impressive examples of mass timber constructed buildings in Canada the UK and Norway, of particular interest was the speed of construction onsite from this industrialized version of “flat-pack” buildings. Niall Crossan of Ecological Building Systems spoke about the use of wood fibre insulation and hemp fibre insulation that they provide onto the Irish market, Niall gave a number of good examples of their use in Irish buildings. David Murray from Medite-Smartply gave a detailed presentation on their high performance MDF and OSB produced from wood fibre, these products they expect to be able to be able to have a significant effect on construction methods where they are employed. David outlined many examples where these materials were used. Tom Woolley from Bevan Architects spoke on the use of hempcrete as a construction material, he demonstrated many examples of its use, its benefits in terms of heat insulation, internal climate stabilization, carbon storage and ease of construction.

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