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Big benefits of natural products

Big benefits of natural products

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The beauty and strength of natural building products is undeniable. We explore how natural building products can contribute to the look, feel and liveability of the homes you build.

Gabrielle Chariton


Contributor to Housing

Nature has gifted us with a plethora of incredible building materials which have shaped the way we live for thousands of years. The use of timber in residential construction, for example, dates back 10,000 years. Bricks, fired from clay, have a similarly distinguished history. Today, as more and more of our decisions are informed by a deepening respect for the earth’s precious resources, natural building products are enjoying a renaissance.

We’re also seeing an emerging intersect between technology and nature, as natural materials are re-imagined and adapted to suit new applications and to deliver even greater benefits. Engineered timber and bamboo products, for example, are workable and lightweight, yet offer incredible structural strength. Timber is also an increasingly viable option for exposed outdoor locations, thanks to innovative thermal modification and chemical processes that improve its dimensional stability and rot-resistance.

Plant-based building products such as hempcrete combine the benefits of sustainable production, superior insulation for reduced energy use, and carbon sequestration. And new-generation treatments extend the lifespan and durability of delicate natural stones, making them suitable for more applications than ever before.

New-generation treatments extend the lifespan of delicate natural stones

Whether used structurally or decoratively, natural materials enhance a home’s character on a number of levels. While the visual beauty and tactility of exposed timber, rammed earth or stone are immediately obvious, they also provide subtle yet profound advantages such as improved air quality and thermal comfort – all of which have a significant and ongoing impact on the appeal and liveability of any home.

Happier, healthier homes

Hemp masonry is a high-performing natural building product that offers endless design possibilities for multiple applications. Commonly referred to as hempcrete, this thermally effective material made from hemp hurd (inner woody stem) and a lime-based binder combines functionality with natural beauty. As such, it’s rapidly gaining popularity with designers, builders and homeowners alike.

The 2018 HIA Australian GreenSmart Home of the Year was constructed with Hempcrete

According to Klara Marosszeky, Managing Director of The Australian Hemp Masonry Company, hempcrete homes invariably out-perform clients’ expectations. ‘We often receive feedback from clients saying that on a 40-degree day, their home is a comfortable 29 degrees inside without any airconditioning on, just a couple of portable fans.’ 

The same combination of thermal properties make the homes perform well in winter, significantly reducing energy costs once again. ‘Hempcrete walls are breathable and cope with condensation and moisture exceptionally well, so they don’t harbour moulds,’ she adds. ‘These qualities have a big flow-on effect on indoor air quality and on the durability of buildings. The materials are also flame retardant and termite- and vermin-resistant.’

Australian Hemp Masonry is the only supplier that works solely with locally sourced hemp and lime materials which it manufactures into building products in Sydney. These include a lime binder for walling or for thermal and acoustic insulation of roofs and subfloors, and a hemp-lime render for external and internal walls, providing builders with the opportunity to construct sustainable sanctuaries.

Offering excellent workability and design flexibility, hempcrete is suited to building rounded finishes and curved walls, and, depending on how it’s finished, can create an earthy, rustic appeal or a sleek, ultra-modern aesthetic.

‘Hemp homes are generally rendered externally, but they can also be clad, providing homeowners with versatile and contemporary design options,’ Klara says.

Hempcrete walls are breathable and thermally effective
'Builders love that building with our materials involves zero waste'

The first home featuring the company’s products was built in 2009; since then, Australian Hemp Masonry has supplied hempcrete materials for over 300 builds, including the 2018 HIA Australian GreenSmart Home of the Year, as well as retrofits and commercial projects.

‘Builders also love the fact that building with our materials involves zero waste,’ Klara says. ‘This, together with hempcrete’s thermal performance and ability to store sequestered carbon, can result in a carbon neutral footprint or better.’ 

If you’re interested in exploring the potential of this incredible natural product, Australian Hemp Masonry offers high-level technical support, including formal training in design and hemp construction. The company also combines this with hands-on experience through regular hemp building workshops.

Beauty set in stone

Perhaps more than any other finish, natural stone elevates interiors with its elegant warmth and luxurious appeal – partnering to perfection with classically styled homes, adding flair to a minimalist scheme, or bringing opulence and drama to contemporary architecture.

As a natural product, stone is highly porous and has traditionally required careful handling and upkeep to maintain its pristine beauty. However, the Cosentino Group’s innovative Sensa stone range, which features the revolutionary Senguard NK anti-stain protection, means homeowners can now enjoy the unrivalled beauty of stone finishes, without any worries about staining or the hassles of ongoing maintenance.

Natural stone elevates interiors with luxurious appeal
Cosentino's Sensa stone range features Senguard NK anti-stain protection

‘Senguard NK anti-stain protection was developed exclusively by Cosentino’s Research and Development team for our natural stone ranges,’ says Pablo Soni Lopez Berbel, Product Manager of Sensa by Cosentino®. In contrast to a paint-on sealant, which degrades over time and requires re-coating, Senguard NK actually integrates with the molecular structure of the stone to offer ongoing durability and stain resistance.

‘Thanks to the unique Senguard NK protection, Sensa offers excellent resistance against damage from aggressive substances and acids. It is also scratch-resistant and easy to maintain on a daily basis, making it the ideal choice for benchtops, flooring and more.’ 

Cosentino recently added four stunning new products to the Sensa range – ‘Siberia’, ‘Palatino’, ‘Vancouver’ and ‘Silver Grey’. This carefully curated selection of quartzites and granites, in on-trend shades of grey and white, was sourced from Brazil.

‘The new portfolio of soft colours and tones is our response to market demands for natural materials with more earthy tones and different matte finishes,’ Pablo says. 

Natural materials with earthy tones and different matte finishes are proving popular
The Sensa range offers excellent resistance against aggressive substances and acids

The Sensa range combines classic beauty and cutting-edge technology, along with a certified 15-year warranty for benchtops. ‘It is perfect for builders and designers who are looking to create unique and luxurious spaces with natural stone, whilst demanding a high-quality, resistant material with an outstanding performance,’ Pablo says.

Timber on tap

Pairing sleek design with tactile natural materials, Wood Melbourne’s hand-finished spouts and taps are like artworks for the bathroom.

Wood Melbourne was founded by Melbourne builder and self-professed ‘timber nut’ Oliver MacLatchy in 2013, after he’d tried – and failed – to source timber spouts for a bathroom project.

‘Recognising a gap in the market, I grabbed some reclaimed timber and spent late nights in the workshop making my own,’ Oliver says. The result of this late-night tinkering eventually became Wood Melbourne’s signature product: the Tigre timber spout – a pared-back, geometric beauty made from reclaimed timber encasing a solid brass spout.

Wood Melbourne's hand-finished spouts and taps are like artworks in the bathroom

Over the years, Wood Melbourne has expanded its range to include tapware, shower heads and vanities, all handcrafted from 80-year-old reclaimed Blackbutt and featuring a minimalistic design that allows the inherent warmth, grain and beauty of the timber to take centre stage.

The timber undergoes a 12-step restoration process that includes de-nailing and sanding, and is finished in a special splash-proof wax to enhance and preserve its character. ‘Each piece is unique in aesthetic and character, but uniform in levels of exceptional craftsmanship and quality,’ Oliver says.

Functionality, design flexibility and ease of use are trademarks of the Wood Melbourne tapware and spout collections. ‘Our timber products are low maintenance and durable, making them suitable for a huge variety of commercial and residential installations,’ Oliver says.

Tapware, shower heads and vanities are all handcrafted from 80-year-old reclaimed Blackbutt timber

All spout designs, including the Tigre, Mini Tigre and Isla, are simple to install and fit a standard ½ inch thread. ‘And the tactility and mechanics of the Oscar and Ollie tap sets match their sophisticated aesthetic, with a half-turn ceramic disk spindle ensuring they are a pleasure to turn on each morning.’ 

Wood Melbourne also offers tapware and spout designs in marble, concrete and brass, which can be matched and combined with the timber products, enabling builders and designers to create truly bespoke nature-inspired bathroom spaces. The business’s customisation services allow for any timber species to be integrated with its product range, providing for continuity of design throughout your build.


This article was compiled with contributions from The Australian Hemp Masonry Company, Cosentino and Wood Melbourne.

First published on 19 April 2023

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