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Students from The Department of Infrastructure and Engineering from The University of Melbourne will be undertaking a research project at Graduate House.

The group of Masters students will be looking at alternative construction techniques, particularly through the use of hempcrete, as current construction techniques have a negative impact on the environment and are also energy consuming. More specifically, explained group member Hexiang Gao, existing construction techniques account for one third of primary energy usage in the world. Researchers have shown that hempcrete is a more sustainable building material than traditional building materials. “As a natural fibres material, hempcrete largely reduces the amount of carbon emission. As a result, the hempcrete is now being seen and treated as the future building material,” said Hexiang. Within this group of engineering students, three sub-groups will look at incorporating hemp products into Graduate House, and two sub-groups will look at sustainability. Increasing the fire resistance of hemp limecrete, increasing its strength and optimising the acoustic property of the hempcrete wall are some of the objectives of the project overall. To make the hempcrete wall more environmentally friendly, a reduction of lime usage in the limecrete formula is also planned.

Infrastructure Engineering Students

Infrastructure Engineering Students

The hempcrete wall panel will not be used on load bearing walls, explained Hexiang. Experiments from previous studies concluded that the compressive strength property of the hempcrete had reached the structural requirement specified on Australian standards. “The students will take on a responsibility which is rare in projects: a live client,” said Victoria Petrevska, project liaison. “In Graduate House, the students have a team dedicated to bettering their institution and the world. This positivity will inspire the students to greatness not only in the project, but their careers ahead of them.” The greatest element of this project is its collaborative nature, she explained, due in great part to the character of Graduate House and its desire to be a beacon of sustainability. “I look forward to seeing the students take on that passion for sustainability and be afforded the opportunity to experience a real-world application of ongoing sustainability,” she said. “The biggest benefit to Graduate House will be young minds which are not tainted with the complexities of sustainability. With a pure approach, the students should be able to derive recommendations which target the goals of the college.”

“The biggest benefit to Graduate House will be young minds which are not tainted with the complexities of sustainability. With a pure approach, the students should be able to derive recommendations which target the goals of the college.”

Victoria Petrevska

Meet Your Engineers

Junaid Ahmed Awan

I selected this project because it is close to our scope of study (structural engineering) as it involves research on concrete and the use of environmentally sustainable material (hemp). It is used as a replacement to cement which, in production, releases a huge amount of harmful gases (such as CO2). As the hemp limecrete is lightweight, Graduate House is interested in using it in their building. My aim is to increase the strength of the hemp limecrete so that it could be accepted by the construction industry. Hemp absorbs huge amounts of CO2 during its growth and also during its use in concrete. This boosts the environmental sustainability and lessens the carbon footprint. The use of cement will decrease and this will further enhance the environmental sustainability as cement involves huge emissions of harmful gases.

Muhammad Moman Shahzad

This project is related to concrete. Being a structural engineer, I have a good grasp over this topic. This project involves the use of environmentally sustainable material, hemp. Hemp limecrete can be used instead of cement, making it more sustainable. As the hemp limecrete is lightweight compared to the conventional concrete, Graduate House is interested in using it in their building. My major focus is on increasing the fire resistance of hemp limecrete so that it becomes more popular in the construction market. Special focus is given to areas on high alert for bushfires. The production of cement emits a huge amount of greenhouse gases such as CO2, which increases the climatic changes in the region. Replacing the cement with the hemp will help in reducing the gas emissions in the environment and in making the environment more clean for our future generations.

Kyle Buntz, Tom Boulton, Winston Tong

Kyle: I was very interested in sustainability throughout my course and felt this would be a great way to apply the skills I have learnt over the last four years in a real world application. Tom: Sustainability has always been a interest of mine and one of the main reasons I decided to study a masters of civil engineering at Melbourne University. Winston: I live there so I have a vested interest in improving the building. Kyle: To provide work that is useful to the members of Graduate House and could be used to assist in its future improvements and development. Hopefully I could have some small impact on providing a world leading building in terms of its sustainability. Tom: Have a better understanding of what is required in a real world situation and develop my skills for future applications. Winston: A better understanding of what’s involved in research to see how it could be useful for my future career goals. Winston, Tom and Kyle: We analysed the sustainability goals as a whole and looked at how they strive to improve all aspects of life around the world. We first thought of how any business may be able to look at these goals and align their own business priorities or decision making processes to inadvertently achieve these by making small simple changes. Of the 17 UN Sustainable Development Goals we have established that the most relevant is that of Sustainable cities and communities and we are thus looking to reduce the impact of the environment that the existing building and infrastructure have. We aim to do this by trying to establish a plan that will allow Graduate House to be one of the first residential Colleges to be entirely ‘off-the-grid’.


featured image by: Jnzl’s Public Domain Photos / FlickrCC