By Mpho Shelile

MASERU – Rise international, a non-profit social enterprise launched the circular expo at Alliance Françoise on the 14th September, with the aim of raising awareness on the production and use of low-carbon locally sourced indigenous and repurposed building materials.

It is a well-known fact that construction is a necessary part of infrastructure construction and maintenance, as well as the modernizing our communities. As the global community moves toward sustainable development and reduction of greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions, the makeup of our buildings has a massive impact on the overall environmental impact in our societies.  Respectively, building operations and construction accounts for 28% and 11% of all global energy-related CO2 emissions. As a builder, working with sustainable materials is key in gaining a competitive edge in the industry.

Henceforth Rise international with their research team discovered that some insulations and other building materials such as bricks can be low on carbon, for example: Hemp, wool and textile insulation panels. When it comes to “hidden” materials like concrete, the report laments that “end-users do not generally think about their consumption or consider the environmental implications of their usage.” However, the selection of building materials can have a huge impact on the building’s quality and the preservation of the environment at large. Reduction in embodied carbon emissions, which are released during the production and processing of materials before and after construction is becoming increasingly important in the sector. The attractiveness of a building made with sustainable materials is growing too— environmentally-conscious consumers are eager to distinguish themselves as trendsetters in the eco-friendly built environment.   

As most of the building material used in construction like; concrete and cement are high carbon dioxide emitting materials that are hazardous (in a longer run) to the environment and people working with them. To overcome this situation an alternative sustainable material has to be used for the construction of eco-friendly buildings. Hemp Crete is a bio composite material which is a prospective material in reducing greenhouse gas emissions. It can be used in Construction and Insulation activities by Hemp Hurds and lime. Hemp plant grows faster by nature and falls in the category of plants with the strongest plant fiber, due to its fastest and rapid growing nature it can lock up more carbon in it.

In his welcoming remarks The Principal Secretary on Circular Innovations Conference and Expo’s Mr. Moshe Mosaase stated that circular innovation is not just a conference, it is a platform for dialog, collaborations and innovations. It is a space where expects, policymakers, industry leaders and communities can come together to exchange ideas. “As we progress into the 21st century, it is imperative that we find ways to build sustainable houses, ensuring that our growth respects and preserves the environment and cultural heritage that makes Lesotho unique. Rise international has shed light on the vast potential of utilizing locally sourced, eco-friendly materials in our construction practices, by embracing these materials, we are not only reducing the environmental impacts of our building projects but we are also empowering local communities by creating new opportunities for employment and economic growth”.

In conclusion he stated that with this expo he wishes to ensure that everyone present understands the importance of sustainable construction and the role indigenous buildings can play in achieving a free emitted community.

Mrs. Lindy Gill the owner of the first house made of Hemp says she and her husband Steve Gill discovered it in Cape Town and she immediately fell in love with the buildings made out of it, “Hemp is cheaper and I believe it should be able to drive sustainable housing agenda in the country, one important thing is that  houses made out of Hemp are warmer in the winter and cooler in summer, and that alone reduces the usage of expensive fossil fuels  such as paraffin and charcoal while at the same time helping the environment by reducing carbon emissions”, stated Lindy.

“Hemp Hurd is the woody core of the hemp plant which can be used to make a variety of products, including insulation, animal bedding, and even concrete-like building material. It is an excellent insulator and it’s also fire resistant. It is unfortunately not sold in the country so I had to purchase hemp building materials from our neighboring country South Africa since it cannot be grown in the country due to law prohibiting the growth of Weed (Marijuana), and hemp is almost considered as weed. And Lesotho is the perfect country to grow such plants because of the weather’ She added.   

She went on to explain that Hemp Crete is a totally permeable building material; meaning it has fully open vapor transmission even though it will prevent liquid water from penetrating through the wall. The gaseous water that flows through buildings as humidity and steam is able to flow into the wall, pass through it, and escape on the other side without really condensing or having a dew point form within the body of the wall itself. This makes it the perfect material for rainy and temperature-variable climates since these natural structures produce a passive humidity control system that lowers the buildup of moisture, thus reducing the occurrence of issues like molds and rot. Additionally, it helps to produce thermal inertia, a closed system in which water vapor serves as a heat sink to stop the building from being heated or cooled.

On behalf of Irish Aid, Juliet Rouse highlighted that, “climate change is the greatest challenge that we face, we cannot face it alone. Irish Aid and our partners across government departments are working extremely hard to support climate action in developing countries but the level of action needed means we cannot do it alone”

“This is an exciting time for Rise as an organization as this is the beginning of a new era towards a more sustainable built environment industry in Lesotho.  As a country we are currently importing over 75% of our building materials from South Africa”, Reitumetsi Nthako the Rise international country director pointed out while highlighting the contribution and importance of the research conducted during the time that took almost a year to complete.

Nthako continued to state that, this research project is the beginning of a new chapter for construction methodologies for industry expects, government officials and private practitioners, “This is definitely a game changing initiative for building environment industry as a whole”