Hemp as a building material

hemp house.jpg

Kyle Towberman week 7

Today, one of the biggest issues facing us is finding a sustainable and environmentally friendly building material. Many ideas have been proposed for this, including wood, bamboo, or even bio bricks, which are produced by bacteria. But one old technology that has been passed over in this discussion of renewable materials is hemp. It grows so fast that it doesn’t need pesticides and can grow in extremely dense lots. But when people think of hemp, they usually  think of marijuana and THC. This, however, is a greatly over-exaggerated relationship.

Hemp and marijuana technically come from the same plant, however, the breeds are completely different. The hemp plant for example, grows much taller and faster, as well as contains .05-1% of THC. A typical marijuana plant has 5%-20% THC. This means that getting high off of hemp is nearly impossible.

Thankfully, not everyone was fooled by this myth. There are a few new types of materials that were developed using hemp. One such material is called Hempcrete. This is a hemp based concrete that is non-toxic, gives off no gasses, has no solvents, mold resistance, high vapor permeability, humidity control, durable, sustainable, carbon sequestration, fire and pest resistance, and has passive self-regulation of temperature and humidity. Its only downfall is that it is not structural, and cannot use rebar systems, so it must use a different system of support.


Another hemp material that is not-so-new to the world is hemp based plastics. This is already being experimented with by many car manufactures including Ford, GM, Chrysler, Saturn, BMW, Honda, and Mercedes to produce hemp based materials in their cars. It can be up to 2.5 times stronger than polypropylene plastics. Bio plastics are not a new development however, and are starting to become more and more common. The downfalls to bio based plastics is the price of manufacturing, which can get quite expensive.


Hemp can be incorporated into so many different products that we could actually live in a world made from hemp, someone has even built an ENTIRE house out of hemp. Hemp may just be the wave of the future.









  1. jonlamere

    Jon LaMere Post 7-Comment 1

    Hemp has been an invaluable resource to humans dating back thousands of years. Impressions on Chinese pottery suggest it has been utilized dating back 5,000 years, and possibly longer. Today, hemp is limitedly used in commercial and industrial products such as rope, clothes, food, paper, textiles, plastics, insulation, and biofuels to name a few.

    Why such a diverse field of uses? This is because of the superior qualities hemp exhibits, specifically, its strength. When compared to a common fiber in wide distribution today, such as cotton, hemp fabric has over 60% better tear strength and over 100% greater tensile strength. Sounds pretty strong?

    Hemp could even be stronger than steel! Although conflicting information does exist, it is widely noted that Ford built his model T vehicle, partially out of hemp and other plant fibers. To prove its incredible strength, he then took an axe to it, which subsequently bounced off, putting its durability in the annals of history forever.

    But hemp goes back in American History far further back then the 1940s. In colonial time, it was referred to as “The Darling of all my projects” by William Byrd II, and the great Thomas Jefferson once referred to hemp fields as “an acre of the best ground”.

    Throughout history, no matter the culture, hemp has always been revered for its incredible, light-weight strength, its durability, its antimicrobial properties, and overall its diverse uses. So why have we moved away from this plant in modern times, towards weaker, less sustainable, less efficient options? Is the hemp plant just too powerful? Does its textile and industrial potentials put in danger the status quo of fossil fuels and other common materials? Does its unquestionable medicinal uses and benefits endanger big pharma? Why is this miracle plant being held back from the public, whos agenda trumps the peoples, and why?


  2. boldt028

    Jena Boldt | Week 7

    I was very intrigued by the use of hemp as a building material because we commonly only see hemp being used for paper, clothing, food, and plastics. After reading your point about Hempcrete not being structural, I researched different ways that it was being used despite this set back. James Savage, a former Wall Street analyst in New York who has insulated parts of his home in Hempcrete, is in the process of developing a panelized system for the material, similar to drywall. Savage’s interest in the product peaked when “renovating his 1850s farmhouse in Stuyvesant (New York). A plumber’s misstep led to substantial leaks in two rooms’ ceilings, one of which was insulated traditionally, the other with Hempcrete. Savage’s insurance company promptly dispatched mold remediation specialists to evaluate the damage. While the traditional insulation was beyond repair, the Hempcrete dried almost completely within a few days, leaving no permanent damage. It was as if it had “healed itself,” Savage recounts.” Savage is the founder of GreenBuilt, a company aimed at creating passive-energy tiny houses utilizing Hempcrete to serve as a prototype for future production of modular stand-alone structures.

    Do you think these passive-energy Hempcrete tiny houses are a realistic option for the future of housing? Or do you think there is a better option for incorporating Hempcrete into homes?




  3. kurtismachtemes

    Week 8 Comment 3
    Hemp has been widely used across human history and its useful properties are understood by a variety of fields that take advantage of these properties. Even though humans have known of hemp’s astounding capabilities, today the plant material is not being used to its full potential. This raises the question: why isn’t this material being put to use where the its properties could be utilized to solve modern day issues?
    Perhaps this could be answered by the preconceptions our society has about the hemp plant. When the average person thinks of the hemp plant their initial thoughts are of marijuana that people use recreationally and the negative effects that are associated with it. I was intrigued to find out that the plants being used for hemp production are fundamentally different than the plants that are used to get high because of their chemical compositions. To change society’s views on hemp I believe it is important to leverage facts like the previous one into mainstream knowledge. Once the general public knows that the hemp plant is not as harmful as it has been portrayed before and that its usefulness can be applicable across many fields to creatively solve some major social issues that have arisen in the modern age. Maybe once we get past our false preconceptions society will be able to return to a material that helped give rise to our civilization.

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