What is lime and why is it considered a renewable resource?

What is lime and why is it considered a renewable resource?

Lime mortar, a renewable construction material, derives its composition primarily from limestone, a widely accessible and abundant natural resource. In fact, the utilisation of limestone as a key ingredient in lime mortar production ensures its sustainability, as it can be responsibly sourced without inflicting substantial environmental damage or depletion.

Limestone, a sedimentary rock formed over millions of years, is found abundantly in various regions across the globe. Its availability in significant quantities allows for a reliable supply chain, reducing the reliance on scarce or environmentally sensitive resources. Also, the extraction of limestone for lime mortar production can be undertaken through responsible mining practices that prioritise land restoration, biodiversity conservation and ecosystem preservation.

Furthermore, limestone deposits often occur in regions with lower ecological sensitivity, minimising the potential impact on fragile ecosystems or protected areas. Through proper planning and adherence to environmental regulations, the extraction of limestone can be carried out in an ecologically responsible manner, ensuring the preservation of natural habitats and minimising disturbance to surrounding ecosystems.

When considering the environmental aspect, it is crucial to highlight the sustainable nature of limestone as a raw material. Unlike certain finite resources, limestone reserves are extensive and replenishable through natural geological processes. This allows for a continuous supply of raw materials for lime mortar production without jeopardising the long-term ecological balance or depleting the resource base.


An important factor contributing to the renewable nature of lime mortar lies in its remarkably low energy consumption during the production process. This sets it apart from alternative mortar types, notably cement-based mortars. The energy efficiency of lime mortar production is primarily attributed to two key factors: the reduced energy requirements and lower temperatures involved in the kilning process.

In stark contrast to the energy-intensive procedures employed in cement production, lime mortar manufacturing entails a significantly lower energy demand. This discrepancy arises from the fundamental differences in the chemical composition and processing techniques between lime and cement. The simplified production method of lime mortar involves heating limestone in a kiln to produce lime, a process that necessitates lower temperatures and therefore less energy input.

The relatively lower kilning temperatures required for lime production contribute to the energy efficiency of lime mortar manufacturing. The process enables the conversion of limestone into lime with considerably reduced energy expenditure compared to the high-temperature processes associated with cement production. This energy efficiency not only reduces the environmental impact of lime mortar production but also supports the overall sustainability of the construction industry by minimising energy consumption and associated greenhouse gas emissions.

By opting for lime mortar over cement-based alternatives, construction projects can make a substantial contribution to energy conservation and promote environmentally responsible practices. The reduced energy requirements in lime mortar production align with the principles of sustainable development and resource efficiency, ensuring that building processes are conducted with a minimal carbon footprint.


Lime mortar possesses a remarkable attribute of actively absorbing carbon dioxide (CO2) from the surrounding atmosphere, a phenomenon known as carbonation. Also, this natural process allows lime mortar to undergo a transformation back to its original limestone state, effectively reclaiming a significant portion of the CO2 emitted during its production. In fact, the carbonation process in lime mortar not only reinstates its structural integrity but also enhances its carbon sequestration capacity, thereby establishing it as a highly eco-conscious choice.

The inherent carbon sequestration potential of lime mortar arises from its ability to reabsorb CO2, mitigating the environmental impact associated with its life cycle. As lime mortar undergoes carbonation, it acts as a vehicle for the reintegration of CO2, essentially reversing the emissions incurred during its production. This environmental benefit significantly contributes to the reduction of greenhouse gas levels in the atmosphere, making lime mortar a sustainable and environmentally friendly construction material.

By harnessing the carbonation process, lime mortar exemplifies the principles of circularity and resource efficiency in the construction industry. Rather than perpetuating the linear model of resource consumption and waste generation, lime mortar actively engages in the absorption and utilisation of CO2, effectively closing the carbon loop. This ability to capture and retain carbon within its matrix empowers lime mortar to serve as a valuable tool in the quest for carbon neutrality and a more sustainable built environment.

Furthermore, the carbon sequestration potential of lime mortar aligns with the growing emphasis on combating climate change and reducing carbon footprints across various sectors. By incorporating lime mortar into construction projects, practitioners can contribute to the overall reduction of CO2 emissions, while simultaneously creating resilient structures that embody environmental responsibility. This synergistic blend of carbon sequestration and architectural durability positions lime mortar as an attractive alternative to conventional building materials.


Structures constructed using lime mortar have garnered a reputation for their remarkable durability and longevity. Lime mortar’s inherent properties enable it to withstand the test of time, ensuring the preservation of architectural heritage and minimising the need for frequent repairs or replacements. Moreover, its unique composition allows for subtle movement and flexibility, mitigating the potential for cracking and structural damage caused by environmental stresses.

The exceptional durability of lime mortar stems from its ability to accommodate slight movements within a structure. Unlike rigid materials, lime mortar possesses a degree of flexibility that allows it to adjust to minor shifts and settle over time. This characteristic ensures that the integrity of the structure remains intact, reducing the risk of cracks and subsequent damage. As a result, lime mortar has proven itself as a reliable choice for buildings in regions prone to seismic activity or areas with fluctuating climatic conditions.

The reusability of lime mortar extends beyond its immediate application. Salvaged lime mortar can be reprocessed and incorporated into new mixes, ensuring a closed-loop system that maximises its potential lifespan. This circular economy approach aligns with the principles of sustainable development, reducing the demand for virgin materials and minimising the carbon footprint associated with construction activities. Furthermore, the ability to reuse lime mortar fosters a sense of heritage preservation, allowing historical structures to be restored and maintained using original materials, enhancing their cultural significance and authenticity.

The longevity and reusability of lime mortar not only contributes to environmental sustainability but also offers economic benefits. By minimising the need for frequent repairs and replacements, structures constructed with lime mortar incur lower maintenance costs over their lifespan. Additionally, the reuse of lime mortar reduces the expenditure on new materials, leading to cost savings for construction projects. These economic advantages, coupled with the environmental merits, position lime mortar as a compelling choice for developers, architects, and conservationists alike.


An outstanding feature of lime mortar lies in its innate biodegradability, enabling it to undergo natural decomposition over time without leaving behind detrimental residues or imposing any adverse effects on the environment. This remarkable characteristic amplifies its renewable attributes, reinforcing lime mortar’s status as an environmentally conscious construction material.

The biodegradable nature of lime mortar facilitates its seamless integration into the ecological cycle. Over the course of its lifespan, lime mortar gradually and harmoniously breaks down, returning to the earth in a manner that aligns with natural processes. This decomposition process occurs without the release of harmful substances, ensuring that the environment remains unscathed. By gracefully transitioning back into the environment, lime mortar exemplifies a sustainable construction approach that prioritises ecological harmony.

Moreover, lime mortar’s biodegradability contributes to the reduction of waste accumulation. Unlike synthetic materials that persist indefinitely in landfills or oceans, lime mortar actively participates in the natural degradation process. Its ability to biodegrade not only minimises the environmental burden associated with construction waste but also lessens the demand for additional landfill space. As a result, lime mortar helps mitigate the negative impacts of waste accumulation, fostering a cleaner and healthier environment.

The biodegradable nature of lime mortar also complements the principles of circular economy and resource efficiency. As lime mortar naturally decomposes, it reintegrates back into the ecosystem, thereby closing the loop and reducing the reliance on new materials. This regenerative characteristic reduces the extraction of finite resources and minimises the associated energy consumption and carbon emissions. By embracing lime mortar’s biodegradability, the construction industry can contribute to a more sustainable and regenerative approach that prioritises the conservation of resources.


The utilisation of lime-based construction materials has garnered noteworthy success and acclaim in various projects across the globe. These success stories not only showcase the diverse applications of lime but also highlight its exceptional performance, sustainability, and contribution to architectural excellence. The following examples demonstrate the wide range of lime-based construction projects that have achieved remarkable outcomes:


The restoration of historical landmarks using lime mortar has been a prevalent and highly successful practice. One notable example is the conservation of the Colosseum in Rome, Italy. Lime mortar was meticulously employed to restore the iconic structure, ensuring the preservation of its original aesthetic while providing enhanced structural integrity. Lime mortar’s compatibility with historical materials and techniques has made it a preferred choice for restoring other heritage sites worldwide, enabling the safeguarding of cultural treasures for future generations.


Lime-based construction techniques have been pivotal in the development of sustainable housing solutions. The Limecrete housing project in the United Kingdom stands as an outstanding example. Limecrete, a combination of lime and aggregates, was used to create energy-efficient and environmentally friendly homes. Lime’s thermal insulation properties and breathability contribute to improved energy efficiency and indoor air quality. This innovative approach showcases lime’s potential to revolutionise the construction industry, offering sustainable alternatives to conventional building materials.


Lime-based materials have also found their place in contemporary architectural designs. The Farrow & Ball factory in the United Kingdom is a remarkable instance where lime-based paints were utilised to create an eco-friendly and aesthetically pleasing exterior. Lime-based paints offer superior durability, breathability, and a natural aesthetic, making them an ideal choice for modern architectural projects that prioritise sustainability and design excellence.


Lime-based construction has played a crucial role in infrastructure development, particularly in the transportation sector. Lime stabilisation has been employed to improve the engineering properties of soils, enhancing their load-bearing capacity and reducing settlement. Notable examples include lime stabilisation projects for road construction, embankment reinforcement, and the development of sustainable transportation networks. Lime’s ability to enhance soil stability and minimise environmental impact has proven invaluable in the creation of durable and resilient infrastructure.

These success stories exemplify the versatility and efficacy of lime-based construction materials in a wide array of applications. From historical restoration to modern architectural marvels and sustainable infrastructure, lime’s unique properties contribute to structural integrity, environmental sustainability, and design excellence. These examples inspire the industry to embrace lime as a transformative and environmentally conscious choice, paving the way for a more sustainable and resilient built environment.


Lime, as a renewable building resource, offers a multitude of benefits that position it as a promising solution for sustainable construction practices. Its natural composition derived from limestone, abundant availability, and responsible sourcing make it an environmentally friendly choice. The minimal energy consumption required for its production, coupled with its carbon dioxide absorption capability, further solidifies its renewable and eco-conscious attributes. Moreover, the durability, reusability, and biodegradability of lime mortar contribute to its longevity and promote resource efficiency.

As we navigate the challenges of climate change and strive for a greener future, lime’s renewable and sustainable properties present an opportunity for the construction industry to be at the forefront of positive change. By embracing lime as a renewable building resource, we can construct resilient and environmentally conscious structures that leave a lasting legacy for generations to come.


Ecoright have been working with architects, housebuilders and specialist brickwork contractors for many years, so their knowledge of lime and its uses is extensive. If you have any questions about how to use lime or its suitability to a particular project, please get in touch, they will be pleased to advise.

You can read more about Lime Renders here: https://www.ecoright.co.uk/

Lime Renders are available through Ecoright’s sister companies:

Lime Render – the natural choice for exterior and interior work Lime Render – the natural choice for exterior and interior work

Lime mortar is highly aesthetic and can be exact colour-matched to bricks or other adjacent materials making it a good choice for conservation or new build.