Turning a by-product into a sustainable building material

22.12.2023 Hemp stone is a sustainable building material that is also produced in Switzerland. In the future, hemp hurd, which Swiss farmers produce in large quantities in the form of waste, is to be used for this purpose. To this end, researchers at Bern University of Applied Sciences BFH are studying hemp varieties grown in Switzerland in order to better understand their mechanical properties.

When hemp fibres are extracted, for example for the production of textiles, paper or insulating materials, they form woody residues called hemp hurds. These hemp hurds can be processed into hemp stone together with a mineral binder such as lime. Hemp stone is a sustainable building material that is characterised by its robustness and its ability to regulate moisture and provide insulation. Swiss hemp stone producers rely on imported hemp hurd, while Swiss farmers suffer from a considerable amount of unused by-product. The use of local hemp hurd is mainly hindered by the lack of systematic information on the properties of hurd and its subsequent processing for hemp stone production. Researchers at Bern University of Applied Sciences BFH want to change this. They have launched a project to show how hemp hurd from Swiss production can be used as a practicable and environmentally friendly alternative for hemp stone production. Therefore, legal hemp varieties grown in Switzerland are being studied to understand their mechanical properties and impact on the properties of hemp stone.

A combination of agricultural and materials science expertise

The project is an interdisciplinary collaboration between researchers from the School of Architecture, Wood and Civil Engineering AHB and the School of Agricultural, Forest and Food Sciences HAFL. The industrial partners are Hanfhandwerk GmbH and the cooperative Genossenschaft Glärnisch Textil. By combining agricultural and materials science expertise, the team can gain a comprehensive understanding of how farming practices affect material quality. Furthermore, the project could stimulate the growth of a new sector focused on sustainable hemp processing, attracting investors and companies wishing to become processing partners.

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Research project