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How Building With Hemp Can Help Curb Climate Change

Updated: Jan 17, 2019



Between the manufacture of building materials, transportation of those materials and construction equipment, energy use and worker transportation, along with the final disposal of construction waste, the United States building sector is becoming one of the world’s largest threats to climate change.

Did you know?

  • Half of the world’s energy goes into buildings throughout their lifetime - from construction, through use, and finally demolition.

  • Buildings, and the construction and use of those buildings, also contribute to almost half of the world’s carbon dioxide emissions.

  • Transporting the materials to a building site constitutes 6-8% of total greenhouse gas emissions for a project.

  • Construction is one of the largest consumers of raw materials, using 25 percent of the world’s timber.

  • The manufacture of concrete and reinforced steel account for 94-95% of greenhouse gas emissions for construction materials.

The U.S. Green Building Council reports that not only does the United States commercial and residential building sector consume 70 percent of electricity, but accounts for 39 percent of all CO2 emissions produced. In fact, U.S. buildings alone are said to be responsible for more carbon emissions annually than those of any other country, except China.

Hempcrete is made of the inner woody core of the hemp plant (called shiv or hurd) mixed with a lime-based binder and water. It is environmentally friendly, non-toxic, energy-efficient and resistant to fires, mold and insects.

Hempcrete, and other hemp building materials, have the ability to transform the building sector into a more energy-efficient and climate-friendly industry, playing a major role in reducing our ecological footprint. Here’s how.

Manufacturing

The manufacture of concrete and reinforced steel accounts for 94-95 percent of greenhouse gas emissions produced from construction materials. These materials are often made using poisonous chemicals and continue to release toxins into the environment even after the buildings are constructed.

Contrary to these traditional construction materials, hemp is typically a low-maintenance, fast-growing agricultural crop that thrives in both temperate and tropical climates. While it grows, it absorbs carbon emissions and helps replenish the soil with nutrients. Once mature, it can be harvested and processed into a concrete-like mixture called hempcrete.

Hemp processing is much less destructive to the environment than traditional concrete production. It requires less energy to produce, and it is a sustainable, annually renewable industrial resource.

HempFlax is a company focused on the production and processing of sustainable resources, semi-finished and finished products made from ecologically grown fibre hemp and flax. They discourage unnecessary logging and deforestation by producing hemp wood for paper, construction material, sawdust and many other environmentally damaging consumer goods.

Transportation

Manufacturing building materials that are then transported to a building site to be constructed into a final structure, all emit large amounts of greenhouse gases and consume increasing quantities of energy. To reduce transportation costs and increase efficiency, hemp is often grown in close vicinity to the production facilities.

On farm processing methods have also been explored in an effort to decrease these costs. Hypothetically, all processing and transportation equipment could run on hemp biodiesel – but that’s down the road.


Pictured above: The Nauhaus Prototype Project, a hempcrete home in Asheville, North Carolina. Click here to learn more about our stay in The Nauhaus!

Construction

Hemp can replace traditional construction materials like concrete, timber, and steel with applications like hempcrete and other hemp-based construction materials like hemp fiberboard and hemp insulation.

Hempcrete is lightweight, non-toxic, and biodegradeable. It is usually mixed on-site, although precast walls and blocks are also available. Building with hempcrete offers design flexibility, because it has the ability to form around any shape, then set and support its own weight.

Energy Usage