Reeds for insulation

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The reeds have been used more as a building material in the past only to be forgotten but now with the green building this wonderful material was rediscovered.

Reeds for insulation
Arch. Luca Maioli
Arch. Luca Maioli

The natural insulation in reeds


Isolating the house with an inner coat is an effective solution to reduce energy losses in cases where it is technically impossible or simply uneconomical to insulate walls from the outside.

To choose the type of insulation to be applied are widespread panels in calcium silicate, wood fiber, vegetable fiber. However one of the oldest and most ecological solutions is the use of reeds.

Copertura interna di canne. Photo: Luca Maioli architect


The reeds in green building


The reasons for being so appreciated in green building are manifold, most notably the 'origin.
The common reed is a weed and grows naturally in wetlands, such as ponds or banks of lakes or rivers; It does not need treatment but only favorable climatic and environmental conditions.
In Italy it is very well known and appreciated the reeds growing along the banks of the river Po, which has always been used as a building material.

Besides the proximity of the raw material and the wide availability in nature, another key aspect appreciated by the green building is the compostability once its end of life. The wastes are not all equal to each other: a polystyrene panel can not be compared to a panel of reeds at the time of disposal.

Analyzing the technical data of a mat of reeds of 5 cm it can be seen as the thermal conductivity values do not differ so much from those of a panel in calcium silicate; the resistance to water vapor diffusion is good as well as the density, ie the ratio of kilograms per cubic meter, all significant features for an ecological house.

A last consideration concerns the lime plasters and raw clay, much used in green building thanks to their particular breathability.
For a plaster raw clay is a good fundamental support, otherwise the material thrown on the wall threatens to collapse on itself and fall; a surface covered with a layer of reeds is an ideal support for the plaster and allow this to become a single body with the wall.



How to insulate a wall with reeds


The reeds for insulation in green building is in the form of mats generally the thickness of five centimeters. The pipes are held together with threads of galvanized iron or nylon, in such a way as to leave intact the internal cavities of reeds. As is known in fact one of the best insulators is the air stops so it is important that the pipes do not break.

Canne Matteo Brioni

First you need to predict what position will the kitchen cupboards and possibly shelves occupy, because the only limit of the reeds panels is just to not carry relevant hanging loads. At the wall units will be positioned so the wooden boards on which will act as an anchors. Then you have to fix the mats on the walls, if necessary, shaping and compacting the material well.

Copertura interna di canne. Photo: Luca Maioli architect The laying of an inner coat of reeds, given the nature of the material, is more complicated than when using wood fiber panels, cork or calcium silicate, like the waste can be very poorly and reusable, so the advice is to rely on people with experience to perform the work or arm themselves with patience if you want to put your coat in self-construction building.

The phase of the plaster is easier between the laying operations. The base of the plaster penetrates easily through the reeds and when it dries it creates a single body.
A surface covered with reeds is perfect as a support, for that reason did not exist when the plasterboard is used in the arelle reeds to make depressions and times when they were not in masonry.

Intonaco di argilla sulle canne. Photo: Luca Maioli architect



Where to buy panels of reeds


Being able to buy in a store building panels of reeds is not easy and in spite of Italy is still abundant in certain areas, the major producing countries are Austria, Switzerland, Hungary, Romania and Poland.

Among the companies that are dedicated to working the reeds, linking it to make covers for bungalows and huts typical of the Venetian lagoon, the arelle and insulation panels, there are LACEP SNC and the Company Zoppitelli, both located on Lake Trasimeno where the culture of reeds flourished fifty years ago.

If you want to turn to companies specializing in materials for green building you can contact among other LEO BODNER, HOLZER or MATTEO BRIONI.

The indicative price for a mattress of a square meter for five centimeters in thickness varies from twelve to fifteen Euro/ sq m, however it is advisable to carefully consider the waste, ie the quantity of cane that will be wasted, before placing your order.

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