Hemp as Building Material, Part 2

Posted on Dec 27, 2015 in inspiring INvironmentalism

Hemp as Building Material Part 2
From doubting to touting
By Brett Marlo DeSantis

It is environmentally friendly, easy to use and long lasting. How does hemp become a real building material?

In 1938, Popular Mechanics Magazine reported:
From the farmer’s point of view, hemp is an easy crop to grow and will yield from three to six tons per acre on any land that will grow corn, wheat, or oats. It can be grown in any state… It has a short growing season, so that it can be planted after other crops are in. The long roots penetrate and break the soil to leave it in perfect condition for next year’s crop. The dense shock of leaves, eight to twelve feet above the ground, chokes out weeds. Let’s take a closer look at what was once available, what is available now and why it is preferred.

Hemp becomes plastic, really? It’s been said that Henry Ford was one of the first to use hemp plastics for one of his cars. Built in 1941, his hemp plastic car contained cellulose fibers derived from hemp, wheat straw and sisal. The final product was lighter than steel and could withstand ten times the impact without denting. Not only did he create a hemp-based plastic, he also saw the potential of biomass fuels and operated a successful conversion plant which produced hemp fuel.

Many years later, Werner Aisslinger designed and built his first hemp chair using similar automotive technology to Ford. Natural fiber molded furniture from hemp boasts the same strength as glass fiber. You can create organic shapes and colors that are highly stable with this ecological approach.

Imagine a healthy home with hemp insulation behind your walls and floors to hemp walls and cabinets to hemp curtains and hemp furnishings! Hemp building products are available. According to the Hemp Industry Association, 500 million dollars of hemp products are imported into the United States of America every year. There are over 30 countries in the world that grow hemp.

Hempcrete is the result of mixing hemp shiv or hurd together with a lime-based binder. The hemp + water + lime binder produces a material that may be cast into walls. Once the material cures, it becomes rigid and exhibits the following qualities: fire, water and insect resistant, vapor permeable, impermeable to liquid water, insulating and practically unbreakable. Since hempcrete currently needs to be imported, this viable material may cost more than lesser quality building materials.

Hemp Insulation: also known as Hemp Fiber ͞Batt” Insulation, is a direct substitute for fiberglass and other typical insulation materials. Hemp insulation exhibits high is formed into sheets by bonding hemp fibers into semi-rigid batts and exhibits high R-Value.

Hemp board: From pressed hemp seeds, one can process and produce hemp oil. Hemp oil is simple to use, healthy, beautiful and durable. According to the Hemp Industries Association, product test results prove that a hemp oil based deck stain will outperform its high-end commercial synthetic and petroleum based competitors in resistance to weathering and does not contain toxins that off gas.

Hemps qualities are obvious….where there is hemp, there is hope. According to Hemp Horizons, a book on the comeback of the world’s most promising plant, ͞the lifting of hemp-growing restrictions would allow the marketplace to choose hemp over chemically sprayed cotton, and thus could bring about a great reduction in agricultural chemicals while keeping farmland in productive use.

Hemp is the next generation of furniture, plant-based plastics, mainstream fabrics and building materials; natural, breathable and chemical-free. When we employ technological advances with sustainable and renewable resources, our built environment will truly be comfortable, healthy and efficient.

Where there is hemp, there is hope. Let’s buy hemp products and encourage our courageous local start growing industrial hemp!