GOOD

Why You Will Soon Be Building Your Home With Hempcrete

As hemp and cannabis gain cultural currency, a new approach to construction emerges.

Courtesy of D-Kuru / Wikimedia Commons

As state after state slowly moves towards marijuana legalization, it seems like everyone is trying to cash in on the pot-farming boom. But legalization opens the door to a world of innovation and entrepreneurship that’s a lot wider than new, inventive ways to get high, like weed sodas. In “green rush” states like Colorado, farmers are taking advantage of the new legal environment to sow fields of hemp, marijuana’s THC-deficient cousin. Because of its relationship to cannabis, hemp has been illegal in America for over 60 years, despite a consistent chorus of supporters who have touted its use as a natural fiber and food supplement in Canada and Europe. Compared to the economic potential of legalized marijuana, that of pot’s fibrous cousin seems like small potatoes. Yet one use of the plant could revolutionize construction in the U.S., creating a new, lucrative industry for growers: Hempcrete.


Building with Hempcrete. Photo by Steven Craven

Also known as Canobiote, Canosmose, and Isochanvre, Hempcrete is a mixture of the woody cores of hemp (called hurds or shives) and lime. Either cast as blocks and finished with lime stucco or sprayed between walls as a paste, the material does not bear structural weight, but does form well-insulated walls and foundations. While many other materials boast the same qualities, Hempcrete is already beloved for its durability, workability, and cost efficiency: It’s less brittle than concrete and about one-eighth of the weight, nearly one-third the price of lumber, resistant to mold, insects, and fire, and potentially carbon locking (meaning it leaves a negative carbon footprint). As hemp grows to maturity within 14 weeks, often with no need for fertilizer, weed killer, or pesticides, it makes for a supremely easy-to-raise crop, comparable in price to existing materials. Its only major limitations are its lack of load-bearing capacity, long setting time, and relative obscurity, which could lead to property owners misusing or mistreating Hempcrete.

Close-up of Hempcrete

Although rare in America, antique samples of Hempcrete-like material have been found in a French bridge dating back to the 6th century C.E., and more recently, it’s been used in homes and high rises in Belgium, France, Switzerland, and the United Kingdom. It’s common enough that there are DIY books detailing how to work with the material. A few Hempcrete houses have even been erected in America since it was introduced in 2009, but given hemp’s federal illegality it still must be imported under restrained conditions, mainly from Canada and the United Kingdom.

As hemp gains traction alongside cannabis, we’re likely to see the already numerous Hempcrete suppliers multiply and prices decrease. But for now, the difficulties of moving hemp across state borders stall the product’s expansion. As legalization marches forward, though, and the first non-residential Hempcrete building rises in the States, America will likely soon recognize its odd status as the world’s only hemp-hating industrialized nation and embrace a promising new industry.

Articles
NHM Vienna/Hans Reschreiter

Wealth inequality has been a hot topic of discussion as of late, but it's something that's occurred all throughout history. Class structure is a complicated issue, especially when you consider that haves and have nots have been in existence for over 4,000 years.

A study published in Science took a look at over 100 late Neolithic and early Bronze Age skeletons found in a burial site in southern Germany. The study "shed light on the complexity of social status, inheritance rules, and mobility during the Bronze Age." Partly by looking at their teeth and the artifacts they were buried with, researchers were able to discover that wealth inequality existed almost 4,000 years ago. "Our results reveal that individual households lasting several generations consisted of a high-status core family and unrelated low-status individuals, a social organization accompanied by patrilocality and female exogamy, and the stability of this system over 700 years," the study said.

Keep Reading Show less
Culture

Climate change means our future is uncertain, but in the meantime, it's telling us a lot about our past. The Earth's glaciers are melting at an alarming rate, but as the ice dwindles, ancient artifacts are being uncovered. The Secrets of the Ice project has been surveying the glaciers on Norway's highest mountains in Oppland since 2011. They have found a slew of treasures, frozen in time and ice, making glacier archeologists, as Lars Pilø, co-director of Secrets of the Ice, put it when talking to CNN, the "unlikely beneficiaries of global warming."

Instead of digging, glacier archeologists survey the areas of melting ice, seeing which artifacts have been revealed by the thaw. "It's a very different world from regular archaeological sites," Pilø told National Geographic. "It's really rewarding work.

Keep Reading Show less

When former Pittsburgh Steelers' center Mike Webster committed suicide in 2002, his death began to raise awareness of the brain damage experienced by NFL football players. A 2017 study found that 99% of deceased NFL players had a degenerative brain disease known as CTE (chronic traumatic encephalopathy). Only one out of 111 former football players had no sign of CTE. It turns out, some of the risks of traumatic brain injury experienced by heavily padded adults playing at a professional level also exist for kids with developing brains playing at a recreational level. The dangers might not be as intense as what the adults go through, but it can have some major life-long consequences.

A new PSA put out by the Concussion Legacy Foundation raises awareness of the dangers of tackle football on developing brains, comparing it to smoking. "Tackle football is like smoking. The younger I start, the longer I am exposed to danger. You wouldn't let me smoke. When should I start tackling?" a child's voice can be heard saying in the PSA as a mother lights up a cigarette for her young son.

Keep Reading Show less
via Gage Skidmore / Flickr

On Tuesday morning, President Trump tweeted about some favorable economic numbers, claiming that annual household income is up, unemployment is low, and housing prices are high.

Now, just imagine how much better those numbers would be if the country wasn't mired in an economy-killing trade war with China, bleeding out trillion-dollar-a-year debts, and didn't suffer from chaotic leadership in the Oval Office?

At the end of tweet, came an odd sentence, "Impeach the Pres."

Keep Reading Show less
Politics

October is domestic violence awareness month and when most people think of domestic violence, they imagine mostly female victims. However, abuse of men happens as well – in both heterosexual and homosexual relationships. But some are taking it upon themselves to change all that.

Keep Reading Show less
Culture