Growing your own building materials

If you haven’t already been blown away by the versatility of hemp, then get ready to see how you can grow your own house.

From foundations to walls to roofing and lots of stuff in between, hemp can replace traditional construction materials, with benefits.

Hempcrete Wall

By now we’ve all been exposed to the truths about growing hemp.  The give back to the environment makes hemp one of the most lucrative crops that should be produced on mass to help off set carbon emissions and improve the planet’s health in general.  Traditional building material manufacturers are heavy polluters which should jar intelligent policy makers into action.  Gearing up for to change to hemp as the basis for housing construction needs to happen now. 

According to hemp.org, an acre of hemp can produce up to four tonnes of material. That’s a lot.  But the best benefits are the strength, flexibility and durablity of what’s called hempcrete.  Foundations and walls made from hempcrete are seven times stronger than concrete with one sixth of the weight and three times more elastic, making hempcrete desirable for earthquake prone areas.

Hempcrete Bridge

A testament to the strength and durability of hemp can be found in a hemp reinforced bridge built in the 6th century France.  Apparently, this is where hempcrete got it’s name.  (1)

In addition to all these advantages, hempcrete is rot and rodent resistant, waterproof, weatherproof, fireproof, self insulating, has the ability to absorb and release moisture so it doesn’t grown toxic mold, is dust free not unlike traditional insulation and gyproc  and hempcrete uses less energy in construction, creates less waste and takes less fuel to heat.  Hemp homes are cool in summer, warm in winter.

Foundations made of hemp resist seepage which means hempcrete can be poured onto a soil foundation.  This miraculous feature is made possible because the hemp hurds, which is the primary ingredient, petrify and turn to stone when mixed with lime and water.  Which explains why the bridge in France is still standing.  The stuff turns hard as stone and will not shift under pressure, good bye frost heaves.

Hempcrete in particulate form

Some of the other building materials that could use a hemp overhaul are wood fibreboard, wallboard, paneling, roofing tiles, flooring, insulation, caulking, cement, plaster, bricks, pipes, paint and varnishes.  The sky’s the limit.  And the hemp hurds needed can be processed in existing wood mills without major changes to the equipment.  No need for any mill layoffs anymore, just switch to hemp hurd milling.

A hempcrete building

A few places in eastern Canada have used hemp in building construction but Europe, especially France, Germany, Ireland and England are leading the hempcrete movement.  A woman in France, Madame France Perrier has been constructing 300 houses a year from hemp.  She says she’s been held back by lack of supply of hemp, for pity sakes.  According to Natural Building Blog, one hectacre crop (2.37 acre) can produce enough hemp to build a standard family size house (1450 sq. feet) and a small shed.  (2) 

The good news is we can stop tearing down forests and creating huge messes with cement plants and using toxic substances to build homes all while reducing our energy consumption.  The thought of a warm, dry, snuggly hemp house just inspired my curiosity and imagination.  And it’s doable!!

1)  http://www.hemp.org/news/book/export/html/202

2)  http://www.naturalbuildingblog.com/hempcrete-growing-your-own-house/