Grasses And Other Small Plants

Plants provide structure, fibre and a range of extracts with wide applications in construction (Table 10.10). Plants - mainly of the grass species - produce straw and fibres that often have a high cellulose and air content, making them strong, durable and well-suited for use in thermal insulation, as reinforcing and fillers in

Table 10.10 The use of grasses in buildings

Species

Part used

Areas of use

Climatic limits

Cultivated plants:

Barley (Hordeum)

Stalk

Roofing

Cool temperate

Coconut (Cocos nucitera)

Nutshell

Thermal insulation, sealing joints

Subtropical

Coriander (Coriandrum sativum)

Seed

Bioplastics

Warm temperate

Cotton (Gossypium)

Stalk

Building boards, thermal insulation

Warm temperate

Elephant grass

(Miscanthis sinensis gigantheus)

Stalk

Building boards, thermal insulation, reinforcement in earth and concretes

Warm temperate

Flax (Linium)

Stalk

Roofing, external cladding, building boards, thermal insulation, textiles, reinforcement in earth and concretes, rope and woven wallpaper

Cool temperate

Seed

Oil treatment, paint, putty

Hemp (Cannabis sativa)

Stalk

Building boards, reinforcement in concretes, thermal insulation, textiles

Cool temperate

Seed

Paints, bioplastics

Jute (Corchorus capsularis)

Stalk

Sealing joints

Subtropical

Maize (Zea mays)

Seed

Adhesives, bioplastics

Warm temperate

Oats (Avena)

Stalk

Roofing

Cool temperate

Potato (Solanum tuberosum)

Seed

Adhesives, bioplastics

Cool temperate

Rice (Oryza sativa)

Stalk

Building boards

Warm temperate

Seed

Bioplastics

Rye (Secale cereale)

Stalk

Roofing, external cladding, building boards, thermal insulation, reinforcement in earth and concrete, woven wallpaper

Cool temperate

Seed

Adhesives, paints

Soybean (Glycine max)

Seed

Paints, adhesives, bioplastics

Warm temperate

Sugar-cane (Saccharum officinarum)

Stalk

Building boards, bioplastics

Subtropical

Wheat (Triticum)

Stalk

Roofing, external cladding, building boards, thermal insulation, reinforcement in earth and concrete

Cool temperate

Seed

Bioplastics

Table 10.10 (Continued) Wild plants:

Alpine Hawkbeard (Crepis nana)

Seed

Bioplastics

Cool temperate

Bracken, common (Pteridium aquilinum)

The whole plant

Roofing

Cool temperate

Cat-tail (Typha)

Seed

Thermal insulation

Cool temperate

Eeelgrass (Zostera marina)

Leaves

Roofing, external cladding, thermal insulation, building boards

Boreal

Greater pond sedge (Care riparia)

Stalk

Roofing

Cool temperate

Marram grass (Ammophila areniaria)

Straw

Roofing

Cool temperate

Moss (Hylocomium splendens) and (Rhytriadiadelphus squarrosum)

The whole plant

Sealing of joints, thermal insulation, building boards

Cool temperate

Reed (Phragmites communis)

Stalk

Roofing, reinforcement in stucco work and render, insulation matting, concrete reinforcement

Cool temperate

Ribbon grass (Phalaris arundinacea)

Stalk

Roofing, reinforcement in stucco work and render, insulation matting, concrete reinforcement

Cool temperate

Scotch heather (Calluna vulgaris)

Whole plant

Roofing, thermal insulation

Cool temperate

Stinging nettle (Urtica)

Stalk

Thermal insulation, building boards, textiles

Cool temperate

Note: Many of the wild plants can be cultivated; e.g. stinging nettle, reeds and cat-tail.

Note: Many of the wild plants can be cultivated; e.g. stinging nettle, reeds and cat-tail.

various building boards. Species such as rye, wheat and flax contain natural glues and can be pressed into building sheets without additives. Cleaned plant fibres of flax, hemp and nettles can be woven into linen, carpets, wall coverings and ropes. Starch and plant oils form the basis for many surface treatments, paints and bioplastics.

Mosses have long been used to seal joints between construction parts, such as between the logs in log constructions. Sphagnum moss contains small quantities of natural phenol compounds that impregnate the material.

The main constituent of peat is decomposed plant matter. Dried peat can be used in building sheets and as thermal insulation.

Grasses and other small plants represent a large potential resource. A century or so of technological and industrial growth has led to most of these being abandoned in building, since they have been perceived as ineffective and not susceptible to industrialization. This is changing, given today's new focus on ecological qualities; some also have superior technical properties. On the other hand, genetically modified plants, such as maize and soya, are spreading rapidly and need to be considered carefully.

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