Dojkinci village on Stara planina in Pirot district. Photo: M. Stanimirovic, 2022.; source: https://www.mdpi.com/2075-5309/13/4/1093
Traditional homes in several mountainous regions of Serbia and the Balkans originate from raw materials. As a result, it is difficult to renovate such homes using natural materials to increase their usability and lower their energy and carbon footprints. The goal to develop sustainable tourism in the Stara Planina region runs the risk of losing its distinctive traditional architecture. Especially if the countries had not established guidelines for reconstruction. Thus, researchers decided to analyse the possibility of renovating a traditional home with natural materials. They were also examining the benefits of using them. They verified how three insulating materials which were EPS, hemp, and sheep’s wool were used to renovate a typical mountain home in Stara Planina (the Balkan Mountains). Researchers wanted to do the renovation in accordance with sustainable building practices. How did hemp wool perform against competition as an insulation material?
Hemp insulation in the traditional buildings
Researchers found that there is easy access to some specific insulations. Sustainable building materials with little influence on the environment include hemp and sheep wool. They took hemp wool into account whilst planning the renovation.
In comparison to conventional crops, hemp is a fast-growing, renewable crop that uses less water and pesticides. Cannabis sativa, sometimes known as industrial hemp, is farmed for building materials. Its THC content of 0.3% sets it apart from marijuana. Products for the construction and thermal insulation of old and new buildings can be created through processing industrial hemp and combining it with other materials. Some of these include hempcrete, hempcrete blocks, insulation wool made from hemp (often known as “hemp wool”), plywood and chipboard, and hemp bricks and mortar.
Industrial hemp is being processed and treated using a variety of techniques in order to create materials for thermal insulating. There are three main categories of hemp thermal insulation products, which we can separate based on the processing and production methods. The most common forms are rolls or panels, however it can also take the form of stiff or semi-rigid boards.
Why can hemp wool be a good choice?
Utilizing locally produced goods offers a chance to link environmental sustainability and regional economic viability. Unlike its neighboring nations (Bosnia and Herzegovina, Bulgaria, and Romania), Serbia currently does not produce hemp insulation. On the other hand, hemp was once widely used. However due to the influence of modern artificial materials, its advantages were lost. Moreover, researchers combined the findings of the energy and price analysis. Afterthat hemp wool insulation ultimately emerges as the best option for renovation according to the research.
The usage of hemp relates to extending product lifespan and subsequent recycling. These points are in line with innovative thinking in all production processes. Natural materials can be part of the circular economy model according to the research. Moreover, as we know, hemp may contribute to the EU Green Deal objectives. This can affect upcoming decisions for building and renovation sector.
To conclude, it is worth noting that in order to lessen the effects of climate change, people should use local and natural materials during renovations. Also the study provides scientific and expert proof that such sustainable renovations are in line with contemporary architectural design and thermal comfort. Architects all over the world already started to use hemp as a source. You can find more about it HERE.