Few plants can rival the rich history and utility of hemp. Hemp can be used for virtually everything- from paper to clothing and even for sustainable construction.
Used for food, oil, fiber, textiles, feeds, and even religious ceremonies, hemp has played a significant role throughout human history. Hemp was once the most traded commodity in the world. And it continues to be one of the most valuable crops today.
Hemp can even be an important component in building your dream home.
What Is Hemp?
You may have a rough idea about what hemp is and what it can do. Hemp is a strain of the Cannabis sativa plant. But its chemical makeup, usage, and morphology are entirely different from that of marijuana. Hemp contains only trace amounts of tetrahydrocannabinol (THC), the psychoactive compound found in marijuana.
This slender plant can grow as high as 15 feet and as thick as an inch in diameter. Unlike ‘pot,’ it is impossible to grow hemp indoors since its roots need to spread. It can also grow in a variety of climates.
Hemp is a dioecious plant, which means it has female and male plants. Hemp can produce oils and smokable products from its flowers and leaves, and protein products from its seeds. The inner layer of the plant contains tough fiber that serves many purposes.
Another vital part of the plant is called the hurd. Most people refer to this part as the woody core of the plant, known for its absorbency, fantastic acoustic and thermal properties, as well as its cellulose content. Sustainable construction using hemp features this part of the plant.
Hemp concrete is gaining traction all over the world. Many people are getting on board with sustainable construction using hemp since it boasts a wide array of advantages while being extremely environmentally friendly.
The Roots of Sustainable Construction Using Hemp
The use of hemp in construction is not new. In fact, hemp was used during the stone age in parts of Asia. Archaeological evidence suggests the processing and use of hemp in pottery and ropes dates back to the 5th century. A study conducted in India also found hemp plaster in ceilings, walls, and floors of more than 30 Ellora caves.
Hemp in Construction
In recent years, humanity has shown a growing interest in environmental sustainability and environmental impacts of their daily life.
The construction industry consumes a whopping 40% of the total global energy, another 40% of global resources, and 25% of global water use. Due to the importance of construction in energy and resource use, this industry represents an incredible opportunity to lessen our environmental impacts.
Currently, 5,000 tons of hemp are used for construction in France alone. Hempcrete used in this part of the world uses traditional hemp and lime used in restoration work.
Sustainable construction using hemp is predominantly in the form of hempcrete. Hempcrete is 15% as dense as concrete, yet still floats on water. Air gets trapped in hempcrete, which provides terrific insulation and breathability. These qualities are useful for managing both noise and heat.
Why Build Your Home with Hemp?
Many people cultivate hemp because of its incredible uses in construction. There are many valuable advantages to using hemp in construction.
Hemp provides a renewable source of construction materials. And with its ability to grow in just about any climate, locally produced hemp eliminates the need to transport materials over vast distances, and it serves to support local farmers – very much a win-win arrangement for consumers and farmers alike.
Industrial hemp can not only give people better building materials, but it can also remedy brownfields since it has a better nutrient uptake compared to other crops. Because of its industrial nature and application, it can become a part of reforestation efforts following forest fires. Not only that, but hemp also fares well in crop rotation due to its fallen leaves serve as organic matter, and the roots can loosen the soil. This natural remedy makes the land more resilient against erosion.
When it comes to carbon sequestration, around 325 kilograms of carbon dioxide gets stored in a ton of dried hemp. So the use of hemp lessens carbon emissions in the atmosphere. Every building and structure featuring sustainable construction using hemp stores vast amounts of carbon.
Hemp yield ranges between 2.5 to 8.7 tons of dry straw per acre. This amount is significantly higher than the yield of other agricultural products. For example, wheat straw produces only 1.25 to 2.5 tons per acre. When it comes to producing biomass for energy, construction, or other purposes, hemp is an incredibly fertile crop.
Insulation is one of the most important features in homes. However, it can be very expensive. But what if insulating properties already came with your construction materials? This benefit is possible with hemp. Sustainable construction using hemp will significantly decrease your building costs.
Sustainable construction using hemp features many advantages, including excellent moisture handling and resistance. These benefits are possible by the unique plant-fiber insulation materials present, which include wood fiber and cellulose. Through this, hemp maintains integrity even in humid conditions.
Hemp hurds are similar to other plant fiber insulation alternatives that can store a great deal of moisture because of its porous structure. The moisture capacity storage of hemp also allows it to take in moisture when it needs it and then release it when conditions are better. A cubic meter of hemp stores around 596 kilograms of water vapor. This awe-inspiring storage capacity makes it a great choice even for areas with elevated levels of humidity.
Aside from having a high pH level, lime is also antifungal and antimicrobial. When a lime coating is present in the hempcrete mix, mold cannot develop on the surface even if the temperature and humidity level provides the perfect environment for mold growth. Its resilience to these factors makes it an ideal choice for people living in cold and warm climates.
Hemp is extremely dense. This feature makes it an excellent source for foundations and building structures, as it is extremely durable and strong. Wall frames and double stud framing can make use of hemp. This way, it can help the structure from buckling under heavy loads or from bending. The rigidity of hemp, as well as its textured surface, makes it an excellent choice for plaster finish since it doesn’t require additional bonding agents or mesh.
Sustainable construction using hemp is made possible by using a benign material as its source. The process of growing hemp involves fewer pesticides compared to other crops like fiber or grain. Because of this, growing hemp features less damage to the environment since it reduces the damage to soil, water, and air.
When hemp is cured and dried, it does not give off gases and toxins. The moisture handling ability of hemp also decreases the chances of a subpar indoor environment caused by moist or dry air.
Other Sustainable Uses for Hemp
Hemp use can positively impact our world. Sustainable construction is just the tip of the iceberg.
Plastic pollution is a serious challenge. We have all seen the pictures of plastic islands that pollute our waterways. We have all heard of the problems with plastic taking thousands of years to break down in landfills, the poisonous and harmful gasses released by burning plastic, and the need to transition away from disposable products and straws. While these are steps in the right direction, these measures are hardly the ultimate solution to reducing plastic waste.
Hemp can produce a non-toxic substitute for plastics. The material can produce just about anything from car parts to paper to even furniture. One Australian company uses only hemp and water to produce a plastic substitute that can be cut, machined, screwed, nailed, glued, colored, and finished in the same ways that wood and wood composites form various products all the while being eco-friendly and biodegradable.
Billions of people rely on fossil fuels to make their lives easier and to power cars, generators, and even computers. Since this nonrenewable source of energy has many adverse effects, many have turned to biofuel as an alternative energy source.
However, many reports suggest that some biofuels come at a steep price since certain crops are not as good for the environment as people once thought. Since hemp can grow in virtually any temperature and leave the soil healthier after being planted, it is now considered a fuel source for thousands of industrial applications. If hemp was mass-produced, it could be a cost-effective and efficient source of biofuel that could power the world and lessen carbon emissions at the same time.
To produce hemp biofuel, hemp seeds need to be pressed to extract their fats and oils. After processing, the resulting components get stored, transported, and sold similar to diesel. Using hemp provides the additional benefit of eliminating the smell of regular diesel.
Aside from biodiesel, hemp can also be made into an alternative for ethanol, which can be added to gasoline. Ethanol traditionally derives from crops such as barley and corn, but can also form through fermentation of hemp. Through this, wheat-based crops can focus on food production.
Most clothes today contain cotton, polyester, nylon, spandex, and acrylic. However, these are resource-intensive and not good for the environment. For individuals looking for a sustainable alternative for fabrics and fibers, hemp is an ideal choice. Textiles made with hemp are eight times stronger than cotton. It was even used for rope and sails by the navy. This biodegradable material features important advantages compared to synthetic textiles since it does not need herbicides and pesticides to grow. It also produces oxygen and is not as water-dependent as cotton.
Hemp’s uses transcend the industrial field. This wonder plant can produce food and beverages, such as hemp cheese, hemp milk, hemp protein powder, and hemp oil.
Another product gaining in popularity is hemp seeds. This superfood is rich in omega-3 fatty acids and protein. It also has a high globulin content which can improve immune function.
Hemp paper dates back to 200 to 150 BC during China’s Han Dynasty. Hemp was used to document Buddhist texts. Later on, hemp became vital in the recording of literature and historical documents, which include novels by Mark Twain and the Gutenberg Bible. Banknotes and postal stamps also featured hemp as a fuel source.
Hemp has the potential to revolutionize the paper industry. This product is a more eco-friendly choice since it can save millions of hectares of forests and animal habitat. Unlike trees, hemp also grows fast and has a high cellulose concentration, the major ingredient in paper. Meaning, producers can make more paper with less time, fewer plants, and less damage to the planet.
Sustainable Construction Using Hemp is Possible
People today realize that hemp holds a lot of potential to strengthen communities around the world. Now that nations are slowly lifting their bans on hemp, sustainable construction using hemp is set to take off. The ability is there. People just need to get behind the movement to reduce our environmental impacts and promote harmony. #helpmehemp #naturenow