Isn’t it hard to imagine that cement could be replaced by hemp for constructing your dream home? We don’t have to live in mud huts, neither do we have to live in a flashy, neon glittery concrete box that is usually inappropriate for the climate and geography of the place and costs a lot of money. Used to make paper, clothing and car body panels, hemp could also be used to build environmentally-friendly homes of the future.
The most sustainable building material isn’t concrete or steel — it’s fast-growing hemp. The hemp house gives the privilege to live in a place that is not only safe and non-toxic but also helps in cleaning the air, the earth, and our bodies. Hemp grows quickly—far faster than timber, in fact—and can be harvested and used as a sustainable building material without damaging the environment. Being a cellulose material, Hemp takes carbon in during its life, and lets it back into the atmosphere when it decays. If you take that plant and put it into a wall, the carbon is trapped inside and not released into the atmosphere.
Hempcrete, which is made from the core of the hemp plant mixed with a lime-based binder and water. These homes are also pest-resistant and fire-resistant—a huge benefit in drought- or termite-stricken areas. This amazing material has a high thermal mass that helps in maintaining a steady interior temperature as well. Not only does it help create ideal indoor environment, it helps the outdoor environment too, sequestering massive amounts of carbon.
Clearly, hempcrete is a material built to last, but it comes with many other benefits compared with the similarly named concrete which is made of coarse gravel or crushed rocks that must be mined, and is in increasingly short supply. It is ten times stronger than concrete, mold resistant, rot resistant and carbon negative. It’s even better than cob/adobe. So, why not build houses with it instead?
America builds its first house with hempcrete which was constructed in Asheville, North Carolina. See the picture above, this 3,400 square feet Push house boasts a number of eco-friendly features. Eco-friendly design and construction company Push Design have gained the support of community members and local officials alike. They were able to build a great home made from hemp walls that is sizable but incredibly light on the environment, energy usage, and total cost.
However, the house is a stellar example of how health, energy and design can co-exist in sync.. The home then seen a meteoritic rise in the media, with coverage by CNN and USA Today, and late night TV, but behind the headlines and punchlines shouting out about the latest and greatest green material is a home that fulfills the core concerns of an environmentally-sensitive habitat.
Watch the video below and have a look from inside of the house.
"Studies have reported that hemp as a crop can clean an average of 10 tons of carbon dioxide per acre during its life cycle," notes Colleen Keahey Lanier, executive director of the Hemp Industries Association. "Compared to other crops, this figure is astoundingly positive."
According to Keahey Lanier, the farm bill which was signed into law by US President Donald Trump in December 2018 clearly makes hemp a legal agricultural commodity in the U.S.—which could pave the way to hemp being used in all sorts of products, including more houses.
Today at least 25,000 products — including apparel, foods, plastics, skin products and dietary supplements — are made of hemp, and now, with the rising demand of nature-friendly construction, it’s gaining attention worldwide for its use as an alternative to the ubiquitous fiberglass insulation in homebuilding. Hemp-based structural blocks and prefabricated panels for exterior walls are also being introduced into the market. Most modern building structures do not allow moisture in and out properly so it gets trapped inside, contributing to things such as sick building syndrome.
If you use hempcrete within an appropriate design, it provides insulation, handles water vapour, so you don’t get mould. The Hemp house breaths and actually extracts the heat from the vapour, adding to the comfort levels of the building and lowering energy costs. A real life example of this is the Marks & Spencer hemp building – the estimated energy savings were a third of the actual savings. It outperforms expectations because it behaves in a much more complex way to other simpler building materials that provide just insulation, structure, heat storage and vapour management.
Hemp is making a major comeback around the world and the use of hempcrete is spreading. In the United States there are currently about 50 homes containing hemp, in such states as North Carolina, Virginia, Texas and Hawaii, but this natural wonder has been used in construction around the world for centuries. Today it can be found in hundreds of homes and commercial buildings in Canada and Europe, including an eco-house built by Prince Charles.
A Washington state company is retrofitting homes with it. Left Hand Hemp in Denver completed the first permitted structure in 2017 in Colorado. There’s Hempire in Ukraine, Inno-Ventures in Nepal. Israel’s first hemp house was constructed in March 2017 on the slopes of Mount Carmel.
World’s first hemp house is located a couple of hundred kilometres away from Amsterdam and is said to be more sturdy and affordable than traditional houses as well as earthquake-resistant. A Dutch company, Dun Agro, has built a prefab for a house made entirely from cannabis. Dun Agro’s hempcrete is made by melting hemp, water and glue and then pouring the mixture into a mould to create the foundations of the house. It takes around three months to dry. These abodes can be built in a much shorter time than traditional homes because the material is built beforehand meaning the house can be erected easily.
The vast quantities of hemp derived products and raw materials created by large scale cultivation could replace many oil-based unsustainable products and materials, particularly in construction, locking in captured CO2 and creating secondary benefits to the global environment. In particular, hemp could be used to replace significant quantities of tree derived products, allowing reduced use of existing tree populations, thus maintaining their CO2 uptake.
Many modern building materials such as plastic foams etc are quite the opposite of carbon negative – and hemp is one of the few other natural building materials that can so easily be incorporated into a workable, aesthetically pleasing system. One of the biggest hurdles to hemp building is getting the regulations changed and changing the way building metrics are measured. Standard metrics are out of date and unfortunately, a lot of materials that would pass these old fashioned metrics are actually unhealthy and usually made from plastic. Who would want to live inside a plastic bag? We’re sure, nobody.
Housing has become ridiculously expensive – it should not cost you your whole life to pay for your house. Hemp legalization and policy correction is the need of the hour for the Indian economy. It’s really important for we Indians to remember how our ancestors housed themselves – they didn’t go to the bank, they didn’t use materials that came from miles away, they used what was around them.
As more and more countries are busy in building hemp homes, why is India behind it? We are eager to see India’s first Hemp house as using Hempcrete in construction looks like a great way to build an eco friendly and sustainable house and it will surely be a great step towards making our environment safe and green. Know how to build a house with hemp by checking this video below.
What are your thoughts about it?
Do you like the idea of constructing eco-friendly hemp homes?
Are you planning to build your dream house using hemp?
Are you going to be the first Indian to live in a hemp house?
If yes, then don’t forget to share your hemp house pictures with us by using the hashtag #himalayanhemp. If you’re interested in learning more about the miracle hemp plant, you can join our Himalayan hemp organisation and be a part of the change. Take a look around the website and contact us for more info.