Hemp Startup Crowdfunding First Hemp Non-Residential Building in US

hempcreteOne extremely promising green building material comes from a plant that has been demonized in the United States for decades, but which could ultimately be used for multiple sustainable solutions in the food, fiber, energy, and construction sectors. That wonder plant is called hemp, and it offers a variety of advantages over other crops, including the ability to be grown without any pesticides or herbicides, to serve as a cover crop to crowd out weeds, and can be used to clean and restore tilth in depleted soils.

Industrial hemp production in the US, if it were fully legalized, could be the core of a truly sustainable construction industry, but because of our country’s archaic drug laws, which lump hemp in with marijuana, growing hemp for fiber (or seed, or just about any other use) is currently illegal in most states. So in order to build hempcrete buildings, the hemp fiber must be imported, which adds a significant cost to any hemp building project.

Did you know that the United States is the worlds largest consumer and importer of hemp-based products, yet we are the only industrialized nation on this earth that bans its production?” – Hempitecture

To showcase the sustainable side of hemp construction, a design & build startup is at work on the first non-residential hemp building in the US, a hempcrete studio for a sustainable education facility in Idaho.

Hempcrete uses the woody inner fibers of the hemp plant (also called hemp hurds or shives), in a matrix of lime, to create a non-toxic, carbon-negative, and energy-efficient building material that just might be “the most sustainable building material on the planet.”

Hempitecture, which grew out of a research project at Hobart and William Smith Colleges in Geneva, New York, is now actively working to advance hemp building strategies and techniques, starting with their first project, thanks to a collaboration with Idaho BaseCamp (IBC). The Hempitecture team has traveled from their home base in the northeast of the US, to Sun Valley, Idaho, in order to participate in this historic hemp building effort, and are currently working on-site to finalize the design of the IBC building.

HempcreteBut this project isn’t really just about one building, even though each additional hemp building that gets constructed helps to raise awareness, advocacy, and education about hemp as a construction material.

The Hempitecture team has a much bigger vision than a single building, even one that’s sustainable and as green as can be, because what they really envision is creating their own proprietary hempcrete binding matrix, sourced from the US and used in the domestic construction market.

We need architecture for a new generation, a generation where issues of climate change and the environment have mattered like never before. We simply cannot afford building as usual. Buildings in the US are responsible for 44.6% of CO2 emissions into our atmosphere and 90% of that energy comes from non-renewable sources.

Our solution to this building epidemic is to use the rapidly renewable industrial hemp fiber as a building material. Because this material is highly insulating, it can reduce the overall energy consumption of the building. Additionally, because hemp has the ability to take an incredible amount of CO2 out of our atmosphere during its growth, it can lend to carbon negative and carbon neutral materials. This means that the material itself sequesters more carbon dioxide from the atmosphere then the production of the material displaces.” – Hempitecture

Because of hemp’s (currently) high cost in the US, the use of hempcrete to construct the Idaho BaseCamp building will push the construction budget beyond what IBC can afford, so Hempitecture has turned to crowdfunding to underwrite the costs associated with this sustainable building. The team seeks to raise $25,000 to purchase and import the hemp fiber, to buy an industrial pan mixer that is suited for hempcrete, and to cover some additional project costs.

If you’d like to see this hemp building project succeed, in order to further the cause of sustainable building and the coming industrial hemp economy, you can get more details and chip in to the project at the Hempitecture Kickstarter page.

You can also follow along with the progress of these hempreneurs on Twitter or Facebook as they work on this hempcrete project.

About the Author

lives in southwestern New Mexico and digs bicycles, simple living, organic gardening, sustainable lifestyle design, slacklining, bouldering, and permaculture. He loves good food, with fresh roasted chiles at the top of his list of favorites. Catch up with Derek on Twitter, RebelMouse, Google+, or at his natural parenting site, Natural Papa!