The Rise Of Hemp As An Environmentally Friendly Building Material For Housing 

Hemp, the non-psychoactive variant of cannabis, has been often used in holistic medicine and as a source for textiles and fabrics. Now, the natural material is being utilized as an environmentally friendly and economically friendly alternative to concrete for building.

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Hemp is the non-psychoactive variant of the cannabis plant that is often used as a natural source material for things like textiles, fabrics, holistic medicines, and more. Now, a new industry is trying to take advantage of the many benefits of hemp, and this time it’s to build housing in a more environmentally conscious way.  

According to reports from The Guardian, the cement industry is responsible for around 8% of carbon dioxide emissions contributing to global warming. The construction and engineering industry has been looking for large-scale material alternatives to combat the contributions of cement to climate change with very little success.

On a smaller scale, however, hemp, when mixed with lime has proven to be a low-carbon, more environmentally friendly building material. Kaja Kühl, an urban designer and the founder of youarethecity, a design and building practice based in Brooklyn, New York, told the Guardian about the massive potential that hemp has in the cement industry.

“There’s an enormous growth potential in the US for hemp fiber used for building and insulation. Hemp was only legalized in 2018, but now industrial hemp is following the first wave of CBD and cannabis.”

Kühl is also a part of an initiative through Columbia University that aims to apply environmental initiatives to projects within the Hudson Valley. Last summer, he completed two farm cottages in upstate New York using hemp-lime, or hempcrete, during construction. The material itself is mainly used for thermally efficient insulation and interior walls, according to Kühl. 

He also described many conversations he’s had with other advocates, designers, fabricators, and general workers throughout the industry who believe bio-based building materials such as hempcrete can greatly reduce the carbon footprint of traditionally used materials. 

Hemp in general has been utilized for centuries. As a material, it can be grown and cultivated quickly, and is quite strong. The biggest environmental benefit of growing and using hemp is the fact that it can capture more than twice its own weight in carbon through photosynthesis. 

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“Choosing materials that sequester a lot of carbon before they become construction materials can be very beneficial in this quest to get to carbon-neutral by 2050. The hemp that is used is the hurd, from the inner stem, and not the bark that is used for paper or rope.”

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Using hemp in construction is also beneficial because of its ability to resist toxins, mold, fire, and other infestations. 

“Modern construction industries are a toxic cocktail, and many of our customers are looking for a non-toxic house,” said Tim White of Texas Healthy Homes. 

“This material is almost carbon-negative. There are no petrochemicals involved at all, so once we get rid of the toxin-load of the materials, we can make healthy homes for people to live in – and you’ve loaded your deck to make a healthy indoor environment built using historic building materials with a track record that’s thousands of years old,” White stated. 

Tao Climate, a company that utilizes modern technology to specifically grow hemp at a large scale has partnered with Ukraine’s Hemp Technology to use hempcrete to build housing for over 150 internally displaced citizens and orphans in Lviv. 

“We have proven that our model works under the harshest of circumstances. What we have achieved in Ukraine is remarkable. We’re effectively removing CO2 from the atmosphere while enabling sustainable housing for millions of people worldwide. It’s a win-win for the planet and humanity,” said Tao Climate’s Felix Roick.