Hemp building materials for construction and housing

What Should We Do With Hemp?

The cost of lumber, steel, and concrete has skyrocketed over the past year, which has been a challenge for anyone who has been building or remodeling. The cost of lumber is only going to go up over time. How are investors who already have thin margins supposed to deal with the increased prices? How can we build in a sustainable manner while still making a profit? What other applications are there for my hemp?

First, let’s make sure we’re clear about the difference between hemp and cannabis. In a technical sense, either one of these could be classified as cannabis. But they have been bred to perform in very different ways over the centuries. Hemp has been utilized in a variety of ways for a very long time. It was also one of the first types of paper and one of the earliest types of textiles. Some of the first Bibles were printed on hemp paper. Ropes and sails are both made out of it. The word canvas comes from cannabis. It has the potential to be an excellent source of food, contains beneficial oils. Some of which are currently being marketed for a wide variety of health uses. It is possible to use hemp as animal feed as well as bedding. It is not possible to get high off of hemp flower because the cannabinoids found in the hemp plant must first be extracted and naturally contain less than .03% THC.

The building industry has a huge amount of room for potential use of hemp. Insulation can be made out of hemp if necessary. It is easier to use, lighter in weight, and provides higher “R” values than its competitors. Blocks, panels, or even 3D printed specialty shapes can be made out of hempcrete, and this material can be used for the construction of floors and walls (not for use on load-bearing walls). Hemp adobe, on the other hand, can be used for load-bearing walls, foundations, and floors, and it is just as strong as concrete, if not stronger.

When it comes to the production of biofuels, hemp is a viable alternative to corn and soybeans. Plastic made from hemp is not only environmentally friendly but also more affordable and durable than plastic made from petroleum. Additionally, the use of hemp plastic lessens reliance on nonrenewable energy sources. And fuel pellets made from Hemp can be burned for heat.

In order to produce plywood, boards, wood blanks, and other lumber replacement products, hemp can be extruded in a manner that is very similar to the way that MDF lumber is. When processed in this manner, the hardness of hemp is comparable to that of oak. It takes forty years for trees to fully regenerate. It only takes ninety days for hemp to re-grow. It has a growth pattern similar to that of bamboo and is an excellent replacement for hard wood floors and other similar timber products. In addition, hemp is beneficial to the environment because it removes a greater quantity of carbon dioxide from the air than trees in the same amount of time. If the cultivation of hemp is carried out correctly and the building materials are utilized in the correct manner, then using hemp for construction could carbon-neutral or carbon-negative.

Hemp has a wide variety of applications and can be used as the primary building material for a variety of structures, including foundations, floors, roofs, walls, cabinets, insulation, shingles, brick or block work, and sheeting. Hemp also has a variety of other uses. In addition to being an excellent insulator, naturally resistant to pests and termites, and flame-retardant, hemp is also breathable and resistant to mold and mildew.

Why is hemp material so difficult to find and use in construction projects today? Growing hemp was made illegal in the United States and many other parts of the world because it was classified as a drug along with marijuana. This ended in the United States in 2018, when hemp was officially and legally differentiated from marijuana and made legal across the country as a result of the language included in the 2018 Federal Farm Bill. This is still the beginning of the hemp industry. And it has proven to be a challenge to build this industry from the ground up due to so many regulations, and the majority of hemp growers have been more interested in the high profit potential per acre offered by CBD oil instead of industrial fiber. Which resulted in an explosion of cannabis products derived from hemp, such as Delta 8, HHC, HHCP, and many more. The 2018 Farm Bill was set to expire in September of 2022, and we are currently waiting (as of 1/11/2023) for a new Farm Bill to clarify the legal standing of hemp and cannabis products that are derived from hemp.

When it comes to hemp-based building materials, such as hemp lumber and hempcrete, the supply chain does not exist. At least not a complete and fluid industry where farmers can count on a payday at the end of their harvest and customers can easily source the material as needed for their projects. However, there has been an increase in the number of smaller suppliers, and the lengthy and laborious process of rating hemp products for use in a variety of construction applications is making some headway. Soon you will see hemp homes and hemp alternatives for lumber, concrete, and steel side by side with their competitors in stores such as Home Depot. When a product is superior, cheaper, and quicker, in addition to being significantly less harmful to the environment, it is impossible to keep it off the market for very long. Particularly in light of the recent changes to the laws governing its cultivation and laws regulating it’s status as a controlled substance.

There are businesses whose sole focus is on the establishment of this supply chain infrastructure, the facilitation of the production of hemp-based building materials at scale, and the utilization of these materials in the development of reasonably priced environmentally friendly housing throughout the United States. The process of 3D printing hempcrete homes is currently underway, and businesses in Texas such as ICON are positioned to dominate the market for reasonably priced custom 3D printed homes in the future.

Hemp is the crop of the future. To be used in construction. For medicine. For food. And so much more. The applications for hemp are practically endless.

I strongly suggest that anyone interested in learning more about anything to do with hemp acquire a copy of Jack Herer’s book “The Emperor Wears No Clothes.”

Alex Cramer