Around 40% of UK carbon emissions are linked to the built environment, over half of which is linked to construction product and materials production, and the drive to net zero means sustainable materials are crucial to reaching the target.
The sector at large is developing alternatives to fossil fuel-derived products, and plants such as hemp and Miscanthus offer a viable solution.
Forward-thinking firm, Natural Building Systems and its sister company, Material Research, are leaders in the development of environmentally friendly construction materials and are investing in Miscanthus research because it has suitable characteristics to help decarbonise the sector.
“Miscanthus has interesting characteristics which give it potential for use as a bio-based construction material,” explains Dr Mike Lawrence, director of research at Natural Building Systems.
“It’s perennial, with an annual harvest, and, being a tall grass, it has long fibres which means less processing is needed.
“It also has strong carbon sequestration capabilities, it’s grown on less productive land and has benefits to soil health,” he says.
“We are working on prototypes for a Miscanthus-based alternative to wool board, and aggregate board, using my patented binding agent,” says Mike.
“Because it’s grown by UK farmers, with a yearly harvest, it’s a domestic feedstock for British manufacturers, who would be sourcing materials closer to where they are made, and not shipping them from the EU or beyond, as wood wool is now.
“Building materials make up half of mineral extraction globally and the drive to net zero means that construction materials must be sustainable,” says Mike.
Natural Building Systems is developing materials at pilot scale and is working with organisations to increase the volume of the products.
“Miscanthus could be big in the field of composite boards for construction. A lot would depend on supply, with an uplift needed.
“We want domestic plants, and we can see huge potential for Miscanthus, hemp, and willow,” adds Mike.