News / Hemplime: A natural solution to sustainable, energy efficient and zero carbon buildings

Native Architects has been committed to using natural, locally sourced building materials and contractors for over 25 years and our office building, The Granary, is testament to what we advocate. The conversion of the 19th century traditionally constructed clamp brick granary farm building was conducted as a self-build project by the Native team who completed all the work, apart from the electrical installations.   

Native used traditional and low-embodied carbon materials throughout the build, as this is at the centre of our fabric first approach and commitment to sustainability. These low-embodied carbon materials include Yorkshire grown construction grade hemp cast against the solid brick walls and the use of hemplime blocks.  

Hemplime, also known as hempcrete, is a low-embodied carbon building material and insulation material in one. It is versatile, it provides insulation and thermal mass, it is breathable, or more accurately, vapour open, fireproof, and healthy. It is more commonly used for insulating solid walls internally in retrofit projects and it can be placed in a timber frame manually or sprayed. Hemplime is also available as blocks which can eliminate the drying times of in-situ hemplime construction or in new builds such as our office extension and the visitor attraction at William’s Den. 

Hemplime proved a valuable building material for a new build house Native were commissioned to design in Orkney. The contractor erected a timber frame which was lined inside with hemplime blocks and then hemplime was hand placed around the outside of the building to allow the wind to dry it out over the summer. By using hemplime dry blocks for the interior work the building could continue to be finished without the influence of inclement weather. 

However, this natural solution to constructing sustainable, energy efficient buildings has its challenges. There is little formal training available on how to use natural building materials and builders are often averse to the use of these materials due to their own lack of knowledge. Educating and inspiring students is also difficult as many college courses do not include information on natural building materials in construction.  

Despite this, the use of hemplime is increasing as the benefits and use become more widely known and case studies are published of completed projects. Native passionately believe in changing people’s perceptions by celebrating success stories and showing others, particularly enthusiastic students, how natural building products like hemplime can provide a solution to sustainable, energy efficient zero carbon homes and buildings. 

Native Architects, leading the way in advocating a low embodied carbon footprint. 

This film was made following a visit to The Granary by students of architecture from the Architectural Association earlier this year.