Hemp House

Design
The growing popularity of hemp as a sustainable building material

No, you won’t get the munchies or get busted for having it in your house. But if you live in a home made with hemp building materials, you could slash your utility bills in half and reduce your carbon footprint.

Though hemp often takes a back seat to its more famous cousin, marijuana, it’s becoming a popular building material for those who want to live a more eco-friendly lifestyle. What’s all the hype about? For starters, hemp products are non-toxic and resistant to mildew, pests, and fire. What’s more, due to its incredible insulating qualities, hemp can keep your home cooler in the summer and warmer in the winter.

If you haven’t heard much about using hemp as a green building material, you will soon. Though it can be made into virtually any construction material, the most common in eco-friendly building practices today are hempcrete, hemp insulation, and hemp board.

Hempcrete

Low in cost and easy to use, hempcrete draws a considerable amount of attention from the DIY crowd. This green building material is made from a mixture of hemp fibers, lime, and water, and is about 1/8 the weight of a comparably sized concrete block. Hempcrete’s breathable nature helps to filter toxins, promoting great indoor air-quality.

Hemp Insulation

Hemp insulation is a soft, woven material made from hemp fibers. While it’s comparable in performance to fiberglass insulation, it doesn’t release any dangerous volatile organic compounds (VOCs) into the air. Plus, hemp insulation regulates moisture, which prevents the growth of mold and mildew.

Hemp Board

Hemp board is a generic term for the building material that can replace plywood and particleboard. Unlike traditional wood, hemp board is unaffected by termites and is virtually impervious to both fire and water. This makes it a great choice for green home construction and remodeling.

  Why use hemp as a building material?

Aside from regulating the temperature of your home, improving indoor air quality, and protecting structural elements from mold, mildew, fire and water damage, hemp is also highly sustainable. As a fast-growing, drought-tolerant plant that produces generous yields without the use of chemical fertilizers, it has serious potential to ease pressure on dwindling forest resources.

Until recently, it was illegal to grow hemp in the U.S. but legal to import from other countries. This made what should have been a relatively inexpensive product quite pricey. However, a provision in the 2014 federal Farm Bill has made it permissible for universities and state departments of agriculture to begin cultivating industrial hemp for limited purposes. As research kicks into high gear and as domestic products move into the marketplace, hemp building materials will become not only more mainstream, but also more affordable.

Photography: Steffen Welsh Architects

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Kate Kasbee
Kate Kasbee is a blogger and freelance copywriter living in Los Angeles. She has a background in real estate marketing and has also written about a variety of subjects including pet care, how to adopt a vegan diet, and technology. Prior to living in sunny California, Kate spent eight years in Chicago where she lived in nine different apartments in five different neighborhoods. Though she’s not quite done exploring, Kate dreams of planting her roots and owning a home with creaky floors and plenty of land for starting an organic farm.
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