Hemp is an extremely versatile crop. It is used to make paper, textiles, biodegradable plastics and fuel among a plethora of applications. Not to mention the extremely useful and popular hemp extract cannabidiol (CBD). However, one of hemp’s most exciting applications is in construction.
Ever heard of hempcrete? It is a hemp-based building material that is slowly gaining traction in Australia, especially among the eco-friendly home community. It is made by mixing woody hemp fiber (from inside the hemp stalk), lime and water which is then cured. The mixture is pushed by hand into wood frames to build an insulating wall.
According to Tasmanian builder Andrias McMahon, the process of structurally building with hempcrete is not very far from a conventional building. He has been working natural building techniques for 15 years, and he’s built a few hempcrete buildings.
“You need to give it a minimum of six weeks to cure, that’s the primary cure. The overall curing process takes about 50 years to complete,” he says. “The process is called carbonification as the lime takes up atmospheric carbon and returns to its mineral state, limestone.”
The use of hempcrete has been gaining traction in Australia, especially in Western Australia, New South Wales, and Victoria, with more than 100 eco-friendly homes built in the past three years.
Sean Manners spent 6 years researching alternative building methods, and he finally settled on hemp as the building material for his new home in Westbury, Northern Tasmania.
“It’s a lightweight building product, so it’s one building product to complete the whole wall. Progressively over time, this house will take in more and more carbon. It will negate any carbon emissions we’ve had to make, for the concrete for instance. It will be a carbon-negative house.”
Using hempcrete to build is quite labor-intensive, so Manners enlisted volunteers to help him build the hemp walls.
Tasmania produces almost two-thirds of the national commercial hemp, and most of it is grown for the food market. In keeping it as eco-friendly as possible, the Hemp Association of Tasmania believes that locally produced hemp can be used as building materials too.
“It’s not terribly economic to be importing hempcrete from Europe, which has been happening,” says Tim Schmidt, President of the Hemp Association of Tasmania.
McMahon says that more people will be interested in hemp houses as time passes. “I’ve got a number of people that are contacting me with fairly regular frequency. I know of six projects that are set to proceed in the next 18 months, so it seems to be rapidly growing demand.”
Analysts see this growth in building with hemp as a boost to hemp companies, such as VPR Brands LP (OTCQB: VPRB) and MCTC Holdings Inc. (OTC: MCTC), since more value can be obtained from what would have otherwise been a waste product of hemp processing.
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