Hemp building association calls for overhaul of performance criteria

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Current methods for measuring the energy performance of building materials are flawed, and give a false representation of overall performance, according to a recently released position paper by the International Hemp Building Association (IHBA).

By failing to more broadly address the behavior of natural materials or assess the overall impact of their production and usage, currently used criteria do not reflect the positive environmental impact or performance of individual materials or combinations of materials, according to the Association.

Too narrow

“The association considers this very important when the construction industry is attempting to tackle the carbon emissions connected to its activities,” IHBA said in a press release.

“This negatively impacts the use of all natural materials including hemp-based materials, especially that which is termed hempcrete,” the Association said, underscoring that current performance criteria based on ‘R’ or ‘U’ values are too narrow.

“In order to correctly compare construction materials for the energy performance or environmental impact they might have, it is necessary to use a range of qualities or performance,” according to the paper’s conclusion.

Closed cycles

The position paper itemizes a wide range of criteria against which building materials should be assessed, addressing 26 indicators under seven major categories: hemp building materials; building layers; origin; installation; behavior; measurement, and maintenance.

“In an era of climate change, the environmental impact of the construction sector is increasingly required to meet sustainable development criteria,” the paper says.

Buildings and building materials should be based on the efficient use of resources, with waste minimized in closed cycles, IHBA said, noting natural construction systems can meet those goals without damage to the environment.

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