There are a wide range of insulations on the market, with the natural insulation market being a well established sub sector, producing an estimated 4 million cubic metres of insulation per year within the UK and Europe. Like many other products, manufacturers of natural insulation range form large multi nationals down to small regional businesses, but we have limited manufacturing within the UK. There has been a steep take-up of natural insulation in countries such as France, Germany and Italy, whilst the UK still lags behind. Ecomerchant have sold many European and some UK derived products over the years and stock probably the largest combined ranges and volumes in the UK, including soft flexible insulations and wood fibre boards.
Natural insulations made from plant fibres or sheep’s wool tend to have excellent hygroscopic qualities and can help regulate humidity within a building, thereby reducing the risks of ill health associated with air-bourn toxins. The term ‘Sick Building Syndrome’ has been used to describe illnesses associated with emissions from the built environment and fixtures and fittings such as formaldehyde, toluene, benzene and styrene. In many modern buildings the indoor air quality can be 8 times worse than outside, so bearing in mind that we ‘Europeans’ spend on average 90% of our time indoors it’s a significant issue. Good ventilation and air movement can significantly reduce the risks, but better still combine it with moisture and toxin absorbing materials and you have an excellent way of reducing humidity whilst absorbing toxins.
It has been shown that children are particularly sensitive to pollutants and asthma levels in children have risen dramatically in the last decade, so buildings such as schools, colleges, health centres and homes should be treated as sensitive buildings requiring careful selection of materials to minimise the risks. Therefore, specifying good ventilation systems and natural insulations in conjunction with low VOC products will lead to a better indoor climates and reduce the risks for the occupants.
Ecomerchant are keen to support UK manufacturing and work with Welsh natural insulation manufacturer - Black Mountain. They produce a general purpose natural fibre hemp insulation product manufactured from a blend of hemp and other natural fibres, incorporating a binder to ensure the product retains its thickness. It has exceptional insulation properties due to a combination of low thermal conductivity and high thermal mass – reducing internal temperature fluctuations and enhancing thermal comfort.
Due to the strength of the fibre the product has good resistance to compression and is a semi rigid structure which resists slumping and compaction, which makes it a very user friendly product when inserting into vertical and pitched open spaces, as it doesn’t tend to fall out between installation and when the plaster board or inner sheathing board is fitted.
Due to its strength and rigidity, the Hemp insulation is ideally suited for use in renovation of older properties and new build timber frame constructions, internal walls and inter and sub floor applications. Hemp insulation is not only breathable but also able to absorb, retain and release moisture without affecting its thermal properties or performance, thus increasing human comfort and reducing condensation risks. Black Mountain hemp insulation is ideal for breathable wall construction.
The manufacturing process at Black Mountain insulation factory is one the most modern in Europe, it requires very little energy, 90% less than some other products. Hemp fibres are one of the strongest natural fibres available, the durability and moisture control properties of hemp insulation allows for a higher level of performance and longevity – retaining its insulating properties for the life of the building.
Hemp is at no greater risk of attack by vermin or other pests than mineral insulations. The hemp fibre selected by Black Mountain is grown without the use of pesticides or herbicides. It does not require forced irrigation in its cultivation and yields a significant tonnage of fibre per acre.
The fibres used in the production of Black Mountain Hemp insulation are treated with a simple compound to achieve Euroclass E fire performance as well as conforming to the fire performance requirements of the building regulations in most applications.
So overall hemp and other natural insulations contribute a lot more than just thermal performance to the built environment.