Department of Architecture and Civil Engineering

Low-carbon materials

Our work includes:

  • straw bale building systems
  • hemp-based composite materials
  • unfired clay masonry and rammed earth construction
  • structural masonry
  • geotechnical engineering.

Use of crop materials, such as straw and hemp, in construction offers renewable resource with potential negative embodied carbon.

Current research projects (Pete Walker, Mike Lawrence and Andrew Heath) include developing prefabricated straw bale panel systems and hemp-lime construction materials.

Projects also include work exploring behaviour of dry-stone retaining walls (Paul McCombie, Andrew Heath and Pete Walker), and contemporary use of lime based mortars in brickwork (Pete Walker).

Unfired clay is a traditional building material that has developed new applications because of its low embodied carbon. Techniques under development include rammed earth and clay brick construction. The mechanism of carbonation of lime based materials is also being investigated (Richard Ball and Pete Walker). Enrico Fodde made a large contribution to the field and led a number of conservation studies on historic earthen buildings.

The following research projects are currently ongoing or have recently been completed in the field of low carbon materials:

Project People
ISOBIO: Development and demonstration of highly insulating, construction materials from bio-derived aggregates Full project details >> Dr Mike Lawrence, Yunhong Jiang
HEMPSEC: pre-fabricated, pre-dried panelised system of hemp-lime construction Full project details >> Dr Mike Lawrence, Dr Eshrar Latif
Low-cost field test kit for earth construction applications Full project details >> Andrew Heath
Interactive systems and coatings for a sustainable built environment Full project details >> Richard Ball
Development of hemp-based composite materials for construction Full project details >> Pete Walker
MODCELL: an innovative straw bale building system Full project details >> Pete Walker and Andrew Heath
Developing a rammed earth for UK housing/strength characteristics of rammed earth Full project details >> Pete Walker
Development of unfired clay brick systems for sustainable construction Full project details >> Andrew Heath and Pete Walker
BaleHaus: a modern innovative low-carbon housing system using prefabricated straw bale panels Full project details >> Pete Walker and Andrew Heath
BaleHaus: manufacture of sustainable prefabricated straw bale houses Full project details >> Pete Walker
On the passive climatic control of earth building materials Full project details >> Andrew Heath and Enrico Fodde
Developing hemp-lime low carbon construction for mainstream uptake through innovation and optimisation Full project details >> Pete Walker, Kevin Paine and Enrico Fodde
Bamboo guadua composites for construction Full project details >> Martin Ansell and Pete Walker
Study of carbonation in novel lime-based materials Full project details >> Richard Ball and Pete Walker
EuroCell: EU market development of MODCELL (a prefabricated eco-building system utilising renewable materials) Full project details >> Pete Walker
An experimental and analytical study of dry-stone retaining walls Full project details >> Pete WalkerPaul McCombie and Andrew Heath
Developing sustainable masonry walling Full project details >> Pete Walker
The influence of spandrel wall on masonry arch bridges Full project details >> Andrew Heath
Drystone retaining wall analysis Full project details >> Paul McCombie
Strength properties of hydraulic lime mortared brickwork Full project details >> Pete Walker
Movement characteristics of lime mortared masonry Full project details >> Pete Walker