Hempcrete: Building the Future
What if I told you there was a biodegradable building material that removes C02 from the atmosphere while providing excellent acoustics, insulation, and fire resistance? My guess is a resounding 'Yes, please!'
Let's learn more about Hempcrete and its potential for transforming the built environment.
Images from AfriHemp
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What is Hempcrete?
Hempcrete is a sustainable building material made from a mixture of hemp hurd (the woody core of the hemp plant) and a lime-based binder.
This 'miracle' material has been used in building for centuries but fell out of fashion. In the context of global warming and the climate crisis, hemp is now making a resurgence. And truly, it is miraculous: good for the air, good for the soil, quick and relatively cheap and easy to grow, and a great quality building product.
In the move towards green building, Hempcrete is a no-brainer.
Benefits of Hempcrete
Sustainable and eco-friendly: Hempcrete is a renewable material that is carbon-negative and requires relatively low energy to produce, making it an eco-friendly choice for construction. It requires no pesticides and actually improves soil health.
Good insulation: It has excellent insulation properties, ideal for walls, floors, and roofs. It helps regulate temperature and humidity, keeping the interior of buildings comfortable and minimising energy use in the building. This furthers the eco-friendly nature of a hempcrete building!
Fire-resistant: Hempcrete is non-flammable and has a highly fire-resistant rating, improving building safety.
Lightweight: Hempcrete reduces the overall weight of a building, which can lead to savings in construction costs. It is also easy to transport and handle.
Breathable: It allows moisture to escape easily, helping to prevent mould growth and improve indoor air quality.
Durable: Hempcrete can last for many years, reducing the need for repairs and maintenance. Despite its durability hempcrete is 100% biodegradable.
Acoustic insulation: Hempcrete has excellent acoustic insulation properties, which reduce noise pollution in buildings, especially noise transfer between floors.
Versatile: Hempcrete can be used for a variety of applications, including walls, floors, roofs, and insulation.
In addition to providing sustainable solutions for green, healthy buildings, the hemp industry holds massive potential for economic growth and job creation, particularly in Africa.
Hemp in Africa
Hemp has been used for various purposes in Africa for centuries, including for building.
In modern times, South Africa has really paved the 'hemp way' in Africa. In the early 2000s, South African architect Tony Budden founded a company called Hemporium, experimenting with hemp-based products. They have successfully built several sustainable, energy-efficient 'hemp houses' in South Africa.
He was followed by companies like Afrimat Hemp, who specialise in the production and installation of hempcrete. The two companies recently collaborated with Wolf & Wolf Architects to create the world's tallest Hempcrete building.
Kenya and Zimbabwe are following suit, though the uptake has been slow on the rest of the continent.
One of the biggest barriers to the industry is the misconception that hemp is the same as marijuana. Though it is part of the Cannabis family, hemp has no psychoactive properties and is not classified as a drug in any way.
It is imperative that we shift our perceptions of the product and open up the market in Africa. We remain hopeful to see more innovation and adoption of these materials in the future!
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