Structural enhancement of timber framing using hemp-lime

  • Christopher Gross

Student thesis: Doctoral ThesisPhD


The world is facing increasing pressures to reduce the amount of energy and resources that are being used. The UK government has targets to reduce carbon emissions and energy usage. Within the UK buildings are a significant contributor towards both energy and material usage.One approach to reduce the energy and carbon emissions from construction is to use natural materials that require minimal processing and energy input such as straw, timber, unfired earth and hemp-lime. Hemp-lime is a composite solid wall insulating material made from hemp shiv and a lime based binder and water which can be cast between shutters or spray applied. Hemp-lime is typically used with a load bearing timber studwork frame. Current design practice assumes that hemp-lime is a nonstructural material and only provides the insulation to the wall construction. However, as it encapsulates the studs it has to potential to enhance their load capacity by preventing buckling and resisting in-plane forces.This study aimed to establish the contribution of the hemp-lime to the structuralperformance of composite hemp-lime and studwork frame walls under three loading conditions; vertical compression, in-plane racking and out-of-plane bending. Both theoretical analysis and experimental testing were undertaken in order to establish the contribution. Tradical HF hemp shiv and Tradical HB binder were used to mix hemplime with a density of 275kg/m3. The wall constructions were initially theoretically analysed using existing approaches and both the stiffness and strength of the wall panels were calculated.Experimental testing was undertaken on 24 full size wall panels. Fifteen were tested with compressive loads, five with in-plane racking loads and four with out-of-plane bending loads. Initially two walls were tested with a concentric compressive load applied to the top of the encapsulated timber studs. The studs were shown to be restrained by the hemp-lime preventing buckling and increasing the failure load by over 500%. Four walls were tested with eccentrically applied compressive loads to investigate bursting of the studs through the hemp-lime surface. On three walls the studs burst through the hemp-lime showing that bursting is dependent upon the hemp-lime cover over the studs. In addition unrestrained studs were tested and shown to buckle at much lower loads than the hemp-lime lime encapsulated studs.Under in-plane racking loads two walls were initially tested and found to have increased stiffness and strength over an unrestrained studwork frame. The leading stud joints were found to be a weak point. These joints were improved and two further walls were tested, one with a sheathing board attached to the studwork frame and one without. The strengthened joints were found to improve the stiffness and strength of the wall panels. The wall panel with sheathing was also found to have a higher stiffness than the unsheathed walls.Two walls were initially tested with applied out-of-plane loads. One wall was hemplime with rendered surfaces and the other included a studwork frame. The studwork frame was found to provide continued load capacity once the render and the hemp-lime had failed. Two further wall panels were tested with a sheathing board attached to the studwork frame and render on the other face of the hemp-lime. Again the studwork frames were found to provide post crack load capacity. The walls were also found to perform with differing stiffness according to the load direction.Following experimental testing the theoretical results were compared with theexperimental results. Generally good correlation is seen between the results. Prior to the experimental testing it was not possible to predict the bursting of the hemp-lime when the studs were loaded in compression, however following testing a technique was developed to allow this prediction to be made.In conclusion this study has shown that hemp-lime does enhance the load capacity of studwork framing under both compressive and in-plane racking loads. Under out-ofplane bending loads the studwork frame allows continued load capacity after the hemplime and render have cracked. This study has shown that material savings can be made when using this type of construction as a sheathing board is not necessary as the hemplime can fulfil its structural function. This will contribute towards a more efficient construction system and reduced energy and resource use.
Date of Award10 Jan 2013
Original languageEnglish
Awarding Institution
  • University of Bath
SupervisorPete Walker (Supervisor) & Richard Harris (Supervisor)


  • timber
  • hemp-lime
  • structural
  • buckling

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