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Hemp and Lime combination is a winner The 2014 Ashden Sustainable Building Award has been won by Hemcrete Projects, the offsite construction division of Oxford-based Lime Technology Group. Supported by the Garfield Weston Foundation, the Ashden Awards are the UK's longest established green energy awards. The competition serves to uncover and champion the most exciting low-carbon enterprises and programmes in the UK and developing world; ones that cut carbon, protect the environment, help reduce poverty and improve people’s lives.

Announced at the official ceremony held at the Royal Geographical Society hosted by broadcaster and cultural commentator, Emma Freud, this latest Sustainable Building Award represents the pinnacle in a raft of industry achievements that Hemcrete Projects has secured over the last twelve months, and serves to acknowledge the company’s advancing role within the low-carbon and offsite construction sector.

Oxfordshire-based Hemcrete Projects’ intent is to bring the dream of zero-carbon buildings closer to reality with its offsite, structural and sustainable building systems – Hembuild and Hemclad. These solutions not only feature exemplar thermal properties, they have the ability to stabilise humidity. Both systems are based around a bio-composite building material made from hemp shiv (the woody core of industrial hemp) mixed with a lime-based mortar. This product, when used in conjunction with an equally efficient hemp fibre insulation quilt, delivers advanced insulation and thermal inertia when factory-cast into load bearing timber wall panels.

As the Ashden Awards judges commented: “This is a huge leap forward on the journey towards zero-carbon buildings. By making it cost-effective and commercially viable to use these products, the possibilities for expanding the use of this superior sustainable building material across the commercial and domestic building sectors are boundless.”

Commenting on behalf of the winners, a delighted Ian MacCarthy, Business Manager said: “We are absolutely delighted to have won such a prestigious and recognised accolade, particularly as the Ashden Awards champion the work of exciting low-carbon enterprises. The award serves to acknowledge how effective systems such as ours will be in relation to the future of sustainable and mainstream construction in this country.”

Building using these systems creates a substantial smoothing-out of temperatures, thus reducing peak loads and the capital costs of an M&E system. The building fabric therefore partially takes over the regulation of the internal conditions using the passive properties of Hemcrete, instead of using the active properties of the M&E system. This creates the potential for reducing capital and running costs, both of which can be modelled by the company

In addition to exceeding expectations based on conventional steady-state U-values and standard thermal modelling, the panelised systems are both ‘negative embodied carbon’ products. This arises due to hemp capturing carbon dioxide during its rapid growth, whilst releasing oxygen back into the atmosphere. The carbon is then locked up within the walls of the building to give a carbon negative solution, which is also suitable to receive a variety of Lime Technology render systems that are available with a range of sustainable and breathable finishes. And whilst Hemp has been used in sustainable building construction for many years, primarily mixed with lime to create Hemcrete, it has until now been cast on-site, which is a messy and time-consuming operation.

The company has the capability to provide complete super-structure solutions, tailored to meet the needs of architects, designers, contractors and end user clients, covering all aspects of panel design, structural engineering, manufacture and installation on a national basis.

Hemcrete Projects’ Business Manager, Ian MacCarthy receives the Ashden Sustainable Building Award from Melissa Murdoch of the Garfield Weston Foundation at a ceremony held at the Royal Geographical Society.