Imagine if there was a material that was not only energy efficient but could also make buildings healthier and function better. A nontoxic substance so durable, it actually got stronger over time in addition to being mold, pest, and fire resistant.
Sound too good to be true? Say hello to hemp homes.
A mixture of industrial hemp, lime, sand, and water – hempcrete is the cutting edge of innovation in green building.
Just to be clear, hempcrete is not used as a structural element but as an excellent material for insulation (it’s lightweight nature must be supported by a timber, steel, or concrete frame).
Often confused with cannabis, hemp won’t get you high but it will provide a safer and cleaner living environment.
In fact, just check out these 5 mind-blowing advantages to using hemp for home building.
1.) Hemp houses are environmentally friendly
Did you know that the majority of conventional building materials today rely on fossil fuels, therefore contributing to CO2 emissions?
Residential and commercial buildings alone account for 39% of CO2 emissions. And experts estimate that over the next 25 years carbon dioxide emissions from buildings will grow faster than any other sector.
Hempcrete, on the other hand, is carbon-negative when sourced locally. Which means that more carbon is taken out of the atmosphere than is emitted.
And because the material is grown naturally rather than mined or manufactured, building with hemp is rapidly renewable. Hemp can produce large quantities of fiber with minimal pesticides or fertilizers and can be grown in most soils.
Perhaps even more astonishing, building with hempcrete is also energy efficient.
According to Greg Flavall of Hemp Technologies, it is the hygroscopic properties (meaning to absorb moisture from the air) of hemp that make it so effective for regulating indoor humidity:
“Because the hempcrete holds water in the fabric of the building and then releases it evenly, hempcrete naturally makes buildings more humid during the wintertime and cooler during the summer.”
In addition, the high thermal resistance of hempcrete requires minimal heating and cooling, allowing homeowners to avoid excess energy consumption while also enjoying significant savings.
2.) Hemp houses are better for our health
Mold is one of the major toxins in indoor living environments today, leading to throat irritation, nasal, sinus congestion, and other respiratory problems.
As a hygroscopic material, hempcrete is a breathable matter that allows water vapor to pass through it. And unlike fiberglass insulation or drywall, hempcrete is nontoxic and mold resistant.
“With hempcrete we’re not saying that it’s going to completely stop mold, but it is very resistant to mold and probably the most resistant of all materials,” Jim Savage of Green Built LLC says.
It was this very attribute that first inspired Jim and his team to consider using hemp as a building material.
A decade ago when the victims of Hurricane Katrina were left without shelter from mold-damaged and toxic homes, Jim searched for a healthy, durable, and climate-resistant material.
Much to his surprise, he found that this material already existed – hempcrete.
The hemp in the material helps moderate fluctuations in moisture levels indoors, while the lime hardens and protects the walls from water-related damage.
No other building matter to-date provides such natural defenses against the elements while also offering superior indoor air-quality.
3.) Hemp houses are fire and pest-resistant
The components of hempcrete, including hemp hurds, water, and lime binder, form to create a naturally flame-resistant building material.
You may be wondering, though. Just how flame-resistant is hempcrete?
Steve Allin, author of the book Building with Hemp, decided to put the fire resilience of hempcrete to the test.
Over the course of eight minutes with a direct blowtorch, Steve found that the material stayed perfectly intact. In fact, the hempcrete was in nearly pristine condition. The fire had only penetrated the surface-level of the material by about half an inch.
However, hempcrete not only offers fire protection, it also deters pest infestations. Unlike other building materials that require heavy toxins to keep critters at bay, hempcrete once again does so naturally.
4.) Hemp houses are highly versatile
Hemp houses can be built almost anywhere. While predominantly located in Europe, hemp homes can be found across the globe. In fact, Greg Flavall of Hemp Technologies has constructed homes from New Zealand to North Carolina. He even hopes to build one in Antarctica one day!
How is this possible?
Hempcrete offers remarkable design flexibility. Depending on the geography and climate of an area, the thickness of hempcrete can be adjusted.
For example, Greg explained that when building a hemp home in Canada an 18in thick wall was used whereas in New Zealand a 10in thick wall used. The material is such that a wide range of walls can be constructed because this building material is so extraordinarily versatile.
The breathability and flexibility of hempcrete make it ideal to use with other natural materials such as timber and rock. In addition, hempcrete can also be casted or plastered on old stone or brick walls. These unique properties allow builders, architects, and designers to develop beautiful and healthy green homes.
5.) Hemp houses are incredibly durable and sustainable
Did you know that most modern homes only last around 80-100 years at best?
While that might sound like a decent sum, it pales in comparison to the 600-800 year lifespan of a hemp home. And unlike traditional houses, homes made from hemp can be recycled back into the earth.
In fact, hempcrete is biodegradable and recyclable! So even long after a hemp home’s lifespan, hempcrete is as versatile as it is sustainable.
The secret ingredient to the material’s extraordinary durability? You guessed it – hemp.
From the earliest stages of production to the final stages of development, hemp absorbs carbon from the atmosphere.
Hemp is so effective at absorbing carbon that the processes used for harvesting, manufacturing, and transporting the material still do not equal the amount of carbon absorbed by hemp naturally.
How many other building materials get stronger with time, provide a longer lifespan and also have a positive impact on this planet?
Although the development of hemp homes has been primarily limited to a niche market, developers like Jim Savage and Greg Flavall are hoping that will soon change.
“It comes down to people becoming familiar with the materials, learning how to use the materials, and getting to the point where hempcrete is widely accepted and cost-reduced,” Jim says.
After years of propaganda and federal restrictions later, many people are still unaware of the true qualities (along with the differences between) cannabis and hemp.
“The biggest challenge is ignorance,” Greg adds.
“Every region we go into, we have to educate, whether it’s Idaho or Mexico. It really comes down to proof of concept. And by building the first hemp house in the United States in North Carolina that was proof of concept. We have to change our thinking towards reuse, reduce, recycle, and re-compost.”
Do you want to see more hemp homes in your neighborhood? Share this article and spread the word. Let’s ignite the hemp revolution right now!