When it comes to describing the hemp plant, versatile is an understatement. Here at High Grade Hemp Seed, we have been primarily focused on hemp flowers (or buds) for their ability to produce the oil that can be turned into CBD and CBG, which is far from the only use of hemp. The plant has been used since 8,000 BCE for countless purposes, including to make paper, rope, and clothing. And If that isn’t promising enough, new uses of hemp are popping up nearly every day. One of the most exciting new uses is hempcrete.
Some of today’s leading architects and builders are backing hempcrete, suggesting that it could not only serve as a highly useful building material but also as a means to help combat climate change. We fully support both of those possibilities, so let’s put on our hard hats and take a dive into the world of hemp concrete.
What Is Hemp Concrete?
Hemp concrete (Hempcrete) is made by mixing part of a hemp stalk, called hemp hurd, with lime, binder, and water. The resulting slurry mixture can be used for a variety of construction applications, including:
- Outdoor furniture
Hempcrete slurry can be pressed, poured, and cast into many different shapes including panels, bricks, and everything in between. One of the most popular uses of hempcrete is to press it into hempcrete blocks, which can be used to make internal and external walls.
Characteristics of Hempcrete
While the environmental advantages of hempcrete can certainly help a construction business burnish its green credentials, builders require materials that really work. Fortunately, hempcrete delivers on this front.
The sustainable construction material is lightweight, versatile, and provides excellent insulation which means that it can hold onto warmth during the winter and stay cool during the summer. As temperatures become more extreme throughout the US and the world, a well-designed home built with hempcrete may be able to yield significant energy bill savings for homeowners.
The Environmental Benefits of Hempcrete
Hemp is famous for its ability to cloister carbon from the atmosphere as it grows. By turning hemp plants into hemp concrete, builders can permanently sequester carbon and prevent even more pollution as homeowners will require less energy to heat and cool their homes built with this material. Additionally, hempcrete is fully recyclable after it is used. This factor makes hempcrete an impressively sustainable building material in an industry infamous for its large carbon footprint.
The Big Environmental Problems with Concrete
To fully appreciate the potential environmental benefits of hempcrete, it’s time to talk regular concrete. In a nutshell, concrete is everywhere as it is the most widely used man-made substance on earth.
If you are reading this inside a house, chances are the foundation is made of concrete. Are you in a tall building? The structure is likely filled with load-bearing concrete. Every time you hit the road to grab some groceries, your car will travel along concrete roads and pull into a concrete parking lot. You may even finish your journey by rolling up your concrete driveway.
The ubiquitous use of concrete comes at a heavy cost. The construction industry produces 39% of global greenhouse gas emissions and the vast majority of that polluting footprint comes from concrete. To make concrete, manufacturers have to heat a kiln to 2,600 degrees Fahrenheit. This heat breaks apart limestone molecules, releasing carbon dioxide. If cement manufacturing were a country, it would have the third-highest carbon emissions in the world. It pollutes more than the aviation sector and all trucks on the road.
Considering that the United Nations predicts that the world’s population will grow to 9.7 billion by 2050, and those 9.7 billion people will need housing. Given this prediction, we must make some drastic changes in how we build if we want to lower our carbon footprint and stave off the worst effects of climate change.
Can hempcrete be the answer? When looking at hempcrete vs. concrete, there seems to be no contest. Concrete is a huge carbon emitter while hempcrete is a carbon sink. However, hempcrete is not a perfect replacement for concrete, and it still has a ways to go until it starts showing up in new buildings and homes.
The Disadvantages of Hempcrete
It turns out that there is a current limit to what hemp concrete can be used for. Notably, hempcrete is a lightweight substance, with much less compressive strength than concrete, and it cannot be used in a load-bearing capacity.
Even if the technology of hempcrete can’t entirely replace concrete immediately, it can still be used in place of concrete for several construction purposes. However, that brings us to another disadvantage of hempcrete. It currently is not readily available, especially in the United States. However, that is beginning to change.
In the past couple of years, buildings incorporating hemp have appeared across the world in countries like France, the U.K., and New Zealand. In 2020, Hempitecture completed a new-build home in Missouri using hempcrete. Additionally, a slew of recent studies have provided more proof of concept of hempcrete as a reliable building material, including a study conducted by the Open Waste Management Journal which concluded that hempcrete is “an advantageous material in building.”
What Is the Future of Hemp Concrete?
As pressure to construct more ecologically friendly homes and buildings continues to rise, we predict hempcrete will provide the solution. Before you know it, more companies will start making and selling hempcrete and builders will brag about using hempcrete in new communities. In fact, hemp is likely to play a big role in the construction industry for all sorts of cool applications.
We’d love to see that day, as it would be just another example of how much hemp can impact our country and world in positive ways. In the meantime, we’ll do our part by continuing to offer top-of-the-line hemp seeds that give farmers new and lucrative crop options. Take a look at all our impressive hemp seed strains.