Hempline, operating as Stemergy: North America's leading producer of hemp fibers

Natural fibre insulation - benefiting the built and natural environment

published: August 31st, 2011
website: http://www.infolink.com.au

The environmental impact of modern buildings is cause for increasing concern, as is the occurrence of Sick Building Syndrome, which is generally related to poor indoor air quality caused by indoor pollution and allergens.

Insulating a building can help to reduce its environmental impact and using natural fibre insulation increases these benefits two fold. However, this is not the only benefit. Natural fibres are non toxic, anti irritant and low in allergens, meaning they will not impact on indoor air quality and will benefit those that suffer with allergies.

There are simple measures that can be taken to reduce a building's impact on the environment, and a general directional change towards ecologically and health preferable building materials and insulation is most definitely a step in the right direction towards a sustainable future and the improved health of building occupants.

There are a number of natural fibres that offer good insulation that will also attract Green Star Material Credits.Green Star Material Credits aim to improve the environmental impact of building materials by considering factors relating to the lifespan, lifecycle and approach towards the use of these resources within the building of Green Star certified projects.

Natural fibre insulation is an ideal material to use on new building projects or large renovations to help achieve the requisite 6 Star Energy Rating. Some natural insulation manufacturers use composite materials, such as cotton and hemp combined.

Wool insulation, available in batts, blankets or loose fill form, is an ideal alternative to traditional insulation.

■Non toxic fumes

■Natural breathable material

■Easy to handle without the need to mask or gloves

■Recyclable

■Biodegradable

■High fire resistance

■Reacts well to moisture

■Beneficial to local economy

Cellulose insulation is an organic, natural polymer that is contained in wood, paper and cotton. It is ideal for use as cost effective thermal insulation, however it also provides a certain amount of acoustic insulation also.

■Ideal for a wide range of climates

■Fire retardant

■Vermin resistant

■Non irritant

■Simple to install

■Minimises black mould problems

■Only for use in roof and ceiling spaces

Cotton insulation (up to 85% post production denim) has comparable thermal properties to fibreglass and cellulose insulation, but it is soft to the touch and will not itch or irritate the skin.

■100% recyclable material

■Non toxic, containing no formaldehyde

■Retains R-Value in colder climates

■Non energy intensive to produce

Hemp production is easy to achieve organically with the plant quickly growing to 5 metres high with dense foliage. Hemp fibre insulation comes in mats, batts and boards and provides automatic moisture regulation.

■Supports agriculture

■No waste produced and minimal processing energy required

■Biodegradable

■Light weight

■Water resistant

■High insulation properties

■Safer dust emissions

■Suitable for roofs, walls or floors

Straw has been used as a building material for hundreds years and can provide a high levels of insulation that is comparable to fibreglass batts. Although uncommon, the use of highly-compressed straw bales as insulation is gaining popularity for the high R-value and low cost.

■Sustainable production

■Supportive of agriculture and local economy

■Cost effective

■Sound insulation

■Modifiable

■Pest resistant

■Non toxic breathable walls

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