Hempcrete is a concrete substitute that has been developed to be used in homebuilding. This product is created by combining hemp fibers with lime or some other mineral binder. Lime is the most commonly used.
When they are mixed, set, and cured (when water has totally dried out of the mix), they are as hard as cement. The material is not overly dense because the binder isn’t supposed to fill all of the gaps, only to help the hemp fibers bind with each other as they dry. The result is a porous material that is actually light in weight.
Why Choose Hempcrete Over Traditional Building Materials?
1) Hempcrete is better for the environment. Hemp is highly renewable as a resource, growing to maturity and harvestable every 3 to 4 months. Hemp requires very little water to produce and it replaces the need to quarry for rock. Hemp is a crop that traditionally has very high yield per acre, making it better than straw. In fact, no other plant has a higher yield in terms of biomass, as hemp does.
2) Hempcrete is harmless to the environment. It is a safe building material that will not place laborers in harm’s way while building homes, nor will it ever be unsafe to live in a hemp home. It is an environmentally friendly product from start to finish, with no off-gassing and extremely low carbon emissions. Workers need to wear breathing masks while mixing the powdered lime into the hemp. Once set, the product is 100% safe. Lime is antimicrobial and antifungal, therefore it creates a building material that is resistant to mold as well.
3) When hempcrete is used as insulation, it can help structurally support a building, unlike loose-fill insulations or batt insulation types. Even spray-in insulations do not provide the type of support that could be considered structurally effective. Hempcrete, however, when used in walls and around support beams, can add additional structural support to buildings. When tested at a Canadian University, a 2×6 stud-built wall that was filled with hempcrete was load tested in comparison to a 2×6 wall without hempcrete. The hempcrete wall was able to withstand more than three times the load pressure of the wall without hempcrete. This is a massive increase in weight that can be supported and would dramatically impact the design and structural integrity of building projects around the world.
4) In terms of cost effectiveness, it makes more sense to rely on building materials from renewable crops. Hemp outgrows trees and can produce hempcrete as well as composite lumber products. The building industry is slow to make changes in materials sometimes. Lumber and cement have been tried and true products, but they are getting more expensive and harder to come by. As there are few forests, wood alternatives will need to take the lead in building. In terms of insulation materials, hempcrete is easier to produce and provides better insulation factors that many commonly used materials currently do. Hempcrete still costs a bit more than some other insulations but the cost is expected to go down as the insulation benefits begin to gain more attention and it is being made in greater quantity.
5) Hempcrete insulation gives excellent sound barrier to noises outside of a home. The inside of a home made with hempcrete walls as insulation is remarkable quiet. It should also be noted that hempcrete is exceptionally fire retardant. When you combine these two things together you have exceptional reasons to use hempcrete in the walls of any new home being built. Even in interior walls, hempcrete can be sprayed for sound-proofing any room in a house.
Hempcrete can be poured into existing walls or sprayed, in techniques being used in Ireland currently. Not all countries are using hempcrete currently and it is still very much in a trial phase, but in countries like Ireland it has been used to create entire homes that are both unique and environmentally friendly.
Hempcrete uses far fewer resources from the planet and it isn’t as comparable to some lesser expensive types of insulation on the market but it gives nearly double the R factor of some of these cheaper insulations which cost more to the environment in the long run.
Hemp could easily replace every product currently being made from wood right now. Billions of trees could be saved each year and hemp is far more renewable. An acre of hemp can replace an entire tree, and that acre will produce 2 to 3 crops per year. One tree can take 10 or more years to reach a maturity that it can be cut and used. Hemp can be planted from seed and harvested in less than 3 months in most cases.
Hemp can also be used for so many other products that it makes good sense to plant more of it. Hemp can be used for biodiesel and ethanol products. Biodegradable plastics have been made from hemp, including bottles and straws – two of the biggest polluters of our oceans right now.
Hemp clothing is being produced all over the world and it affords major UVB protection as well as being antimicrobial. Hemp, if embraced, is a plant that could change the world in very positive ways. Hempcrete is simply another one of those ways. Hempcrete could make affordable housing, hemp composites could make building supplies everywhere and so very much more. It’s a plant that is like the egg of the plant kingdom. There are so many different ways that you can use it that you should always have some around.
Industrialized hemp suffered for many years at the hands of the government who made it part of the illegalization of cannabis. Hemp should never have been taken away from the people. It’s a useful and amazing plant that has the power to bring the planet back to a good place if we let it. Farmers could be saved from bankruptcy by planting and growing hemp. Some people say that we’ve only tapped into a tiny percentage of the things we can potentially use hemp for. It’s a growing industry that has no limit in sight.
Image: Jnzl’s Photos
Maria Arrington is a full time blogger on alternative medicine. She writes on the vast world of alternative medicine and things around this sector.