Hemp isn’t just a plant, it’s the future. It’s considered to be one of the most versatile plants in the world. Over the decades, hemp has been used to manufacture medicine, rope, paper, and even construction materials.
It’s even believed the great pyramids of Egypt used hemp in their construction. The pyramids are over 4,500 years old – and only a flexible compound with high tensile strength can withstand the elements for such a long period.
Hempcrete (biocomposite of hemp and lime) was first developed and used in France in the late 1980s. Today, it’s quickly becoming a sustainable building alternative to concrete for many construction engineers.
How is building with hempcrete taking over?
Why Hempcrete Is Taking Over: The Downside of Using Concrete
The production and application of concrete – the most common building material – is very unsustainable. It’s estimated that its production alone uses up to a tenth of the world’s industrial water production and releases about 2.8 billion tons of carbon IV oxide each year.
When it comes to application, concrete absorbs and retains heat from the sun, which results in the urban heat island effect (the rising of temperatures in urban areas).
If the biggest concrete cities such as New York and Chicago continue using concrete as the main building material, there’ll be an additional 470 gigatons of carbon IV oxide released every year. With an overwhelming amount of carbon IV oxide in the atmosphere, radiation is trapped at ground level, creating ground-level ozone. This prevents the cooling of the earth at night as well as warms the ocean water, compromising its ability to absorb carbon IV oxide.
Why Builders Should Start Using Hempcrete
The manufacture of hempcrete is more sustainable as it involves natural raw materials (hemp hurd, lime binder, and water) that won’t deplete the earth’s eco-system. The hemp fields absorb significant carbon IV oxide from the atmosphere and even continue to absorb greenhouses gases after they’re transformed into building materials. The correct ratio for a hempcrete recipe is four parts hemp hurd, one part lime binder, and one part water.
Since its discovery, hempcrete has seen tremendous growth in Europe and North America over the last decades. It’s strong, durable, and comes with many beneficial properties, including:
1. Creates Eco-Friendly Buildings
Thanks to its ability to naturally regulate a building’s humidity and temperature, hempcrete provides natural insulation for your home. A hempcrete house can help you save on energy bills all year long.
2. Fire Resistant
Hempcrete is one of the most fire-resistant building materials today. This means that you can meet or exceed all building fire codes in your area by building with hempcrete. It works by protecting the inner structural parts of your wall from fire.
3. Mold-, Pest-, and Moisture-Resistant
Mold, pest, and excess moisture can easily compromise the structural integrity of your building. They may also call for constant repairs which are expensive in the long run. Hempcrete contains lime which has a high pH, making it resistant to mold and pests. It’s also moisture absorbent, hence, suitable for areas with high humidity levels.
4. Carbon Absorbing
During the hardening process when lime turns to limestone, carbon IV oxide is absorbed from the atmosphere, making hempcrete a carbon-negative building material. This significantly reduces your carbon footprint and helps you conserve the environment.
5. Resistant to Cracking Under Movement
Being flexible and low-density materials, structural hempcrete blocks are resistant to cracking under movement. This makes it suitable for places with a lot of seismic activities.
6. Ideal for Upgrading Older Buildings
Hempcrete is perfect for upgrading the thermal performance of older buildings. It’s particularly suitable for repairing timber frame infill panels and adding insulation to solid masonry walls. Besides working effectively with other building materials, hempcrete is also lightweight, meaning that it won’t put a lot of pressure on the old structures.
If the building was infested with pests, hempcrete will be a good way to deter future infestations thanks to its high pH. So the next time, you’re thinking of restoring a historical building, hempcrete should work just fine.
7. Helps Save Money
Hempcrete reduces monthly energy costs and doesn’t incur any maintenance expenses like other building materials. Besides its highly efficient insulation and moisture-absorbing properties, you can also save on construction costs because it’s lightweight, easy to use, and requires less labor.
Building with Hempcrete for a Greener Future
Using hempcrete in your building creates healthy (chemical-free and damp-free) indoor environments. You get excellent insulation, a pleasant living atmosphere, and clean indoor air, regardless of the season or weather.
With all these benefits of hempcrete, it’s quite unfortunate that only a few buildings have adopted this sustainable building material. The practice is more popular in Canada and Europe than in the U.S. mainly because of the pending restrictions on the cultivation and use of hemp in different regions in the country.
On the bright side, the 2018 Farm Bill legalized the cultivation of hemp under specified conditions in some areas. With a more regulated industry and less stigma on the use of hemp, the production of hemp products such as hempcrete will increase.
Check out our posts for more informational articles on hempcrete.