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Hemp Humps in the Building Arena

Friday, September 19, 2014

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The sturdy fiber long confused with its Cannabis cousin has cast off its stoner reputation and is finding a new home in the building industry.

Hemp, a World War II agricultural staple once widely used in rope and clothing, has morphed into a green building material for the 21st century.

So-called "Hempcrete," introduced in 2009, is being used as an insulator for non-load-bearing walls and in residential construction.


Hempcrete is being used as an alternative to traditional insulation and is gaining steam in the green building arena.

An upcoming project will feature the material for the first time in a public building.

Strength and Versatility

Made of a mixture of hemp cores—called hurds or shives—and lime, the material is durable and less expensive than concrete.

Hemp-based building materials can be cast as blocks or sprayed between walls as a paste. The material is “one-eighth the weight of concrete; one-third the price of lumber; resistant to mold, insects and fire; and potentially carbon locking,” according to Good magazine.

And with marijuana now legal in some states, hemp crops are again flourishing, the magazine adds.

The crop matures within 14 weeks and usually needs no chemicals to keep pests away.

Hemp's History

Hemp was once a major cash crop for the U.S.—an industrial fiber popular during wartime for its use in clothing and rope.

Hemp's History Hempcrete

During times of war, hemp was often cultivated and used for things like rope and clothing.

States even had "Hemp for Victory" campaigns during World War II. Posters in Minnesota, Wisconsin and other agricultural states encouraged its cultivation.

Reefer Madness

Hemp was banned along with its THC-containing cousin, marijuana, mainly because of a misunderstanding in the difference.

In 1971, a Canadian researcher developed the international definition of hemp, which set the THC limit at 0.3 percent, according to AlterNet. The low limit, widely criticized, suppressed hemp production.

Hemp's Reefer Madness reputation didn't help. The 1936 pot propaganda movie made farmers reluctant to grow hemp. Their reluctane grew with the Marihuana Tax Act of 1937, which added a dollar tax on anyone who dealt commercially in cannabis, hemp, or marijuana.

Hemp's Resurgence

Still, building with hemp isn’t new. It’s just starting to reach mainstream audiences.

And with more states softening to the idea of legal marijuana, hemp advocates are hoping for the same. In states like Colorado, farmers are taking advantage of marijuana's legality and growing fields of hemp, according to Good.


Homes in Europe have been using hemp for building as far back as the sixth Century, but are using it even more in present day.

And while Europe and Canada have been more relaxed on allowing hemp product use, some in the U.S. are trying to do the same.
A Hempcrete design startup called Hempitecture is hoping to move building with hemp more into the mainstream.
The startup reached its fundraising goal on Kickstarter in June and will use the money to build the first public-use hemp building in the U.S.
The building, at Idaho Base Camp in the foothills of Mt. Borah, will serve as a sustainable education facility (a yoga studio, mostly). Construction is expected to take six months.
Hempitecture Idaho Base Camp Hempcrete

Hempitecture is planning the first U.S. public-use building made from hemp.

From there, Hempitecture hopes to go even further as it focuses on "building for human health and energy efficiency."
"We achieve these design goals by harnessing the power of nature to minimize the carbon footprint of a given structure," according to the company's website.  
"Ultimately, we intend to both continue the research and development of hemp building innovations for the American Green Building Market. These materials will be integrated into the construction process through the design arm of Hempitecture, creating a holistic and integrated design approach."


Tagged categories: Bio-based materials; Building design; Building Envelope; Building envelope; Commercial Construction; Green building; North America; Residential Construction

Comment from peter gibson, (9/19/2014, 11:03 AM)

More nonsense we dont need.

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