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Improvement of Acoustic and Fire Performance of Flax and Hemp Thermal Insulation - NF0605

The main outcome from this project will be to expand the market for domestic insulation products manufactured from flax and hemp fibre. This will be achieved by
(1) Identifying the key fire and acoustic performance requirements of insulation materials, and assessing market significance of UK construction codes, recommendations and regulations
(2) Optimise the hemp and flax fibre insulation to meet acoustic and fire performance requirements
(3) Disseminating the results to end users, specifiers and the wider public.

Increasing the UK market share of flax and hemp fibre insulation will provide a market opportunity for UK fibre producers. The development of a UK fibre demand is seen as the key component in the development of a viable UK fibre crop production and processing industry. Direct experience of the development of the industrial fibre crop industry in the UK in the last 15 years has led to the conclusion that the weak link in the chain is the lack of UK markets for the fibre.The current German market for flax and hemp insulation is 1200 tonnes (0.19% of the insulation market). This figure indicates that significant UK market expansion of flax and hemp insulation is possible. Natilin UK Ltd is believed to be the only company active in the UK market for hemp and flax insulation. The product was launched at the UK’s main construction fair, Interbuild 2004. Natilin is now installed in over 50 dwellings in the UK (see case studies). The product is fully certified for use throughout Europe. However, experience of the trade fare indicated that the key area of concern of Architects and Specifiers was the ability of flax and hemp insulation to meet the new regulatory requirements in terms of acoustic (Part E of Building Regulations) and fire performance (EN13501-1).

Reducing Pollution
Unlike other forms of insulation, no waste products are produced from the production of hemp and flax insulation (considering both the primary and secondary processing)

Biodiversity and landscape
Increased use of flax and hemp fibre insulation will in itself encourage the development of a fibre production industry thereby increasing the opportunity for UK produced industrial crops. Fibre crops if grown as part of a rotation system have been demonstrated to have a positive effect on biodiversity.

Tackling Global Warming
The use of hemp and flax insulation will help to reduce greenhouse gas emissions. This is achieved primarily through the reduction in heat loss from buildings. (Hemp and flax insulation is between 5% and 10% more thermally efficient than standard mineral fibre products). Also an important consideration is the fact that more carbon is locked up during crop production than is used up in the manufacturing process.

Protecting Resources
The use of renewable hemp and flax insulation will reduce the reliance on mined mineral resources (used in production of mineral insulation) and reduce the reliance on petrochemical resources (used in the production of foamed polymer insulation products)

Reducing Waste
Unlike other insulation products hemp and flax insulation can be simply disposed of by composting or burning.

Sustainable Housing
Sustainability in the development of new housing stock is a key aim of the Government as indicated by many statements from the Office of the Deputy Prime Minister. Products such as hemp and flax insulation help the aim of sustainability by reducing the consumption of finite resources.

The results of the project will be used to understand an improve product performance. The results will then be disseminated in a number of ways.

(1) Natilin UK Ltd will disseminate the results of the project to end users and specifiers through its usual commercial marketing channels.
(2) The BioComposites Centre will deliver generic knowledge by disseminating the results of the project through the publication of at least one article in a peer-reviewed journal and by presenting a paper at (at least) one conference.
(3) The Groundwork Trust will be responsible for delivering wide dissemination of the results to principally the public and not-for-profit sectors. The Groundwork Trust will produce a brochure detailing the benefits of natural fibre insulation and highlighting the results gained from the research. This brochure will be used (together with direct presentations to Local Authorities and Housing Associations), to promote the benefits of natural fibre insulation. The Groundwork Trust will also liase with at least one end user to ensure that demonstration of the product potential is taken to end-user phase (in a school or other public building). The Groundwork Trust will also prepare a poster for display in the Building Centre in London. The Groundwork Trust will organise 2 presentation seminars (1 targeted at the private sector and 1 targeted at public and not-for-profit sectors)

The above dissemination activities will ensure increased demand for natural fibre insulation.
OBJECTIVE 1: Identify the most appropriate fire and acoustic testing standards and establish test protocols.

OBJECTIVE 2: Determine the current acoustic and fire performance of Natilin hemp and flax insulation to test regimes identified in Objective 1.

OBJECTIVE 3: Determine the regulatory implications of the acoustic and fire performance (determined in Objective 2) and recommend and justify targets for improved performance.

OBJECTIVE 4: Determine the technology options for improving the acoustic and fire performance in line with the recommendations made in Objective 3

OBJECTIVE 5: Manufacture modified insulation samples in accordance with the technology options proposed in Objective 4, and report on the production implications.

OBJECTIVE 6: Determine the acoustic and fire performance of modified samples (produced to a specification proposed in Objective 5) and optimise samples and performance.

OBJECTIVE 7: Determine the regulatory implications of the improved fire and acoustic performance and analyse the market implications and opportunities.

OBJECTIVE 8: Deliver wide and generic dissemination of the results (including installation of the insulation in at least one building to generate a real case-study)
Project Documents
• Final Report : Improvement of acoustic and fire performance of flax hemp thermal insulation   (338k)
Time-Scale and Cost
From: 2004

To: 2006

Cost: £103,153
Contractor / Funded Organisations
GN Products Ltd, University of Wales, Bangor
Arable Farming              
Fields of Study
Non-Food Crops