TRADA Research Summary: Biogenic Materials for Housing

‘Biogenic’ is a broad term that refers to materials of biological origin. At its most wide ranging, this could include fossil fuels plus materials like chalk and limestone that owe their formation to biological activities from previous geological epochs. However, the term is commonly reserved for materials of relatively recent biological origin within the context of the construction sector, including timber; it also covers lower-profile materials currently used in niche applications, such as:
• sheep’s wool
• straw
• cork
• recycled cellulose fibres (paper)
• flax
• hemp.

House construction is well poised to make a contribution towards sequestration, as there is the potential to incorporate large volumes of biogenic material in structures with a long service life. The Forestry Commission estimate the UK housing stock is sequestering up to 92 million tonnes CO2e with the potential for a further 37 million tonnes over ten years. (Forestry Commission, 2009). There is thus scope to question whether or not a change in the emphasis of the Code for Sustainable Homes to recognise the potential for carbon sequestration as a weapon in the arsenal to combat climate change would make a significant difference to national CO2 emissions.

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