Environment

The house made of hemp

The house made of hemp
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America's first house made primarily of hemp has been built. Using a product known as Hemcrete – a mix of industrial hemp, lime and water – a team of 40 volunteers, sub-contractors and designers have recently completed construction of a hemp house located in Asheville, North Carolina (NC). Eco-friendly design and construction company Push Design has gained the support of community members and local officials alike and now plans to build more.

Using a product known as Hemcrete – a mix of industrial hemp, lime and water – a team of 40 volunteers, sub-contractors and designers recently completed construction of the hemp house in Asheville, North Carolina (NC). Eco-friendly design and construction company Push Design have gained the support of community members and local officials alike and now plan to build more.

Using hemp as a building material is not new. Hemcrete is a registered brand of hempcrete, a material has been an alternative building material used in Europe and Australia since the 1960's. The use of hemp in buildings dates back millennia in Asia and the Middle East where the Cannabis plant originates from. The biggest challenges of using hemp as a building material in the U.S are regulation, supply and cost, all of which are related.

David Mosrie of Push Design explains: “The main negative effect of the legal situation [in the U.S] is the cost to import it, which is frankly very high. Even while [the government] is legalizing medical marijuana now in 19 states, [they] can't seem to allow industrial hemp production. Local production would not only lower the environmental impact exponentially versus bringing it from Europe, but would bolster a struggling economic group and prop up local farming, a long regional tradition. It frankly makes no sense to keep up the ban , at the state or federal level, but it continues on.”

Given the restrictions on hemp production in the U.S, Push Design sourced their industrial hemp from the U.K through the company Tradical via a fellow NC company Hemp Technology.

“We are very lucky to have Hemp Tech and their founder, Greg Flavell, here in Asheville,” Mosrie told Gizmag. “Greg is one of the top experts on hemp in the world. We have been looking for the most effective, sustainable and energy efficient toxin-free building material for years, an effort that we still put time into every single week. We recognized almost immediately that hemp was, in every way but in cost, seemingly the most effective and sustainable material available worldwide. The qualities it offers are beyond anything we get from typical materials, combining energy efficiency found in mass-based construction with the carbon sequestration, rapid renewability, strength, several hundred year wall lifespan, and the breathability and indoor air quality that is unsurpassed. It is an incredible combination, and a list of positive attributes we have never seen in any other material.”

Hempcrete has some interesting qualities one of which is it's ability to pull carbon from the atmosphere both while being grown and while in-situ producing a double edged sword for fighting climate change. Firstly at the cropping stage the hemp plants naturally use carbon dioxide for growth at about 22 tonnes per hectare, however the interesting factor is that the building itself continues to sequestrates carbon as lime in the hempcrete calcifies over time.

“The fact that the lime content is constantly calcifying, turning to stone essentially, over the wall’s life span, means the wall is actually getting harder and stronger as time goes on,” Mosrie said. “The durability is unlike anything we have seen, with the exception of stone, as perhaps even beyond that as there is no mortar joint failure possible. Studies in Europe have estimated about a 600-800 year life span for the wall system.”

The interior of the house is lined with recycled paper panels known as PurePanels. This material is 100 percent post-consumer recycled paper which is corrugated, and panelized. It is lined with Magnum Board, a breathable, natural sheetrock replacement, using organic glue. The panels are lap jointed and installed at about five panels per hour using a glue strip and four screws toenailed into the floor and ceiling. “The result is a sustainable, toxin-free, breathable panelized wall system that goes in very quick and is counter-intuitively strong,” said Mosrie.

The doors are made of the same material skinned with hardwood veneers, are fire rated and incredibly light. Window frames in the house were recycled from demolished houses with the heavier and better insulating glass replacing the old panes.

In all it took the team nine months to build the house, however Mosrie believes that future projects would take around half that time. The longer construction time was due to unfavourable weather conditions and the teams' inexperience in using hempcrete.

Push Design have recently signed contracts on several new homes in the Asheville area, and on two micro-developments of five units each, also in Asheville. Push is also acting as a consultant on supplying materials to dozens of projects destined to use Hemcrete from Texas to Colorado to the East Coast.

And if you want a house built using hemp and are worried about people trying to smoke it, Mosrie puts it this way: “We tell folks they would have to smoke the master bedroom to get high! It would take smoking 2500 lbs of the hemp to get high, so it is a losing effort.”

27 comments
Christoffer Sperling
Ok, 2 things..: 1. The human race are becoming elves.... we\'re living in plant-houses, what\'ll be next? Sky-scraper-trees? 2. I bet someone would set the house on fire and stay inside to get high :P And a question: Isn\'t this house extremely easily flammable? It seems a little bit dangerous to live in o.O However i like the concept, and if it\'s not easily flammable, i\'d definitely consider living in one.
Brutal McKillins
Lets hear it for American hemp farmers--the most buzzed farmers in the nation! The only downside I can see with large-scale hemp farming in the States is that the locations will have to be controlled by law enforcement to keep teenagers from baking their brains to oblivion, and that will drive up costs either through business overhead or through taxes. That said, I\'m seriously considering building my own hemp house.
Brutal McKillins
An addendum: if it\'s difficult to get high on the industrial form of hemp and it cannot be easily altered/bred into a form that does get you high then it is plausible that the federal government could be convinced not to impose the tight security I mentioned above.
Dave Myers
Alright kids, for the bajillionth time... industrial hemp doesn\'t get you high. Not that that should be considered a problem... There is no \"requirement\" for law enforcement to brutalize and imprison peaceful folks for the simple act of choosing how they wish to think. If the powers that be were interested in building communities over standardized human work units of \'productivity\' we\'d be able to look out for and after each other without taxes, giant corporate subsidies, and the like. George washington was both a hemp farmer and a smoker of female cannabis plants. Revolutionaries such as George that champion individual liberties (ever read the constitution?) are the kinds of people the war on drugs is in place to persecute and keep quiet. Why on earth would anyone care about (for example) what Willie Nelson does on his tourbus. Anyways, draconian policy not in any way influenced by legitimate science and the notion of inalienable human rights aside, hemp is an extremely useful, productive plant that can be grown cheaply on an industrial scale in America if it weren\'t deemed illegal by those lovely folks in washington. But instead, we subsidize corn (and milk) to the point of throwing bargeloads away in the ocean.
Facebook User
Reading the first two comments I\'m struck with the fact that people in this country - even those interested in science and technology - are so ignorant to think that you can get high on hemp. Cannabis can be grown for THC or fiber and seed. Unfertilized females produce the most THC - Mexican brick average 8-12% THC with hybrids grown hydroponically capable of double that amount. Hemp is planted like corn and males dominate as they grow taller. The competition for sunlight produces plants up to 18 feet tall with a THC content of 0.2% - at least 40 times LESS than Mexican brick. Once the fiber is extracted the THC content is virtually nil. The advantage of hemp over other fibrous plants is the the fibers range from 12-18 feet in length. Further the seed averages 25% dietary protein and is palatable to humans and animals, especially birds who can crack the raw seed with their beaks. It\'s what makes canaries sing. Further the seed can be pressed for oil, and that oil was used in WWII bombers as a lubricant and could be used as a basis for biofuel. North Dakota passed a law that would regulate the growing of hemp, but the DEA sued in federal court to override the state law. Meanwhile no farmer can grow corn without government subsidies, and the variety (yellow dent) has very little protein but lots of sugar which is fed to livestock or made into high fructose corn syrup. Watch this video (1hour 24 minutes) if you want to know what HFCS is doing to our society: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=dBnniua6-oM
Facebook User
Of course we all know that hemp plant (sativa) for making things is different than hemp (indica) you smoke.
Facebook User
Not all Cannabis strains have high enough levels of THC to get people high. There are thousands of different strains. Not too mention only the female plant produces buds that contain the THC. The Cannabis Sativa plant is grown to produce Hemp as it grows very tall and is suited to Hemp production. Here in Canada, Hemp Farming has been regulated and works pretty well. As far as teenagers causing trouble, I have never heard of an issue. The early settlers were forced to grow a certain amount of hemp on their properties. Many people dont know this. Until the early 1900\'s when everyone was afraid that their white daughters were going to be sleeping with black men, then the world flipped! If anyone reading this is interested in the healthiest seed in the world to consume, look up Hemp seed or hemp seed oil. It packs more protein than meat, and all the Omega 3, 6, and 9\'s that you\'ll ever need in your diet. Not to mention Biofuel, and medicine. I could go on forever...Stop prohibition! Free the most important plant in the world. Do your research!
Facebook User
@Brutal McKillins - Actually not... \"*Industrial hemp has a THC content of between 0.05 and 1%. Marijuana has a THC content of 3% to 20%. To receive a standard psychoactive dose would require a person to power-smoke 10-12 hemp cigarettes over an extremely short period of time. The large volume and high temperature of vapor, gas and smoke would be almost impossible for a person to withstand.\" (http://naihc.org/hemp_information/hemp_facts.html)
Ashlin
If this building method has been around for so long and offers a raft of advantages over concrete, why on earth is this not a \'mainstream\' building technique? I guess there are a lot of good ideas out there that never see the light of day because of lack of investment, marketing etc. Sigh I want a hemp house!
AussieJohn
Industrial hemp is not at all the same as the type of hemp used to get high.