Our world is ever-evolving, looking for new ways to conserve or create. I’ve shared with you several ways hemp is being used in our medical and therapeutic community. Now we are going to dive into the manufacturing benefits of this amazing plant and what it can do in the world of building and architecture. We all have heard of concrete and steel for construction, but now out of the box thinkers are using something called Hempcrete but is also marketed as Canobiote, Canosmose, and Isochanvre. Hempcrete is bio-composite of the woody parts of the hemp plant and a lime, sand, or pozzolans mixture. The hemp core has high silica content allowing it to bond well with the porous mixture. The result of this mixture is a lightweight cement-like compound that insulates and is about a seventh of the weight of traditional concrete. Fully cured hempcrete blocks will float in water so they are not used for the structural elements but rather as insulation between wood framing. Hemp structures date to Roman times. The Romans have been using it since the days of Julius Caesar, but not to get high. A hemp mortar bridge was constructed back in the 6th century when France was still Gaul. Though Europe has continued to use hemp in building it has been reintroduced into the design in the US in recent years as well as across the world. Since hemp grows faster, stronger and requires no fertilizer, no fungicides, no herbicides and it grows dense like any weed it makes a good choice for a low-carbon, low-cost solution not to mention its versatility. We are still uncovering all its manufacturing benefits.
We have 2 projects right here in North Carolina that have used hempcrete. The Nauhaus, Asheville, NC completed in 2011 which was built as a prototype by the Naushaus Institute. However, the first build was completed in 2010 and is a private residence for Martin-Korp also in Asheville. This residence was built by architect Push Design. At the time of this build, the main ingredient to the hempcrete was illegal to grow in the US causing the exterior walls of this build to range between $25 and $30 per cubic foot.Since the agricultural hemp ban was lifted across the US in 2018 we have seen more and more manufacturers looking to this plant for lightweight, low carbon and cost-effective building materials that actually help our growing global crisis versus contributing to it. Many farmers are growing industrial hempas a rotation crop between barley, soy and corn. Both Washington and Jefferson grew it. Sustainability is key in our growing climate concerns making hemp a huge factor in changing the way we build and grow.
Image Credits from the New York Times article above.