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Hemp as Building Material: Innovations in Non-Toxic Construction

Hemp, a member of the Cannabis sativa plant family, has been used for thousands of years for various purposes. However, it is only recently that the potential of using hemp in the construction industry has started to gain attention. Hemp has unique properties that make it an ideal building material, and its use can help to create sustainable, non-toxic buildings. Innovations in hemp-based construction are opening up new possibilities for builders, architects, and designers to create greener, healthier, and more durable buildings.

Benefits of Hemp as a Building Material

Hemp has several benefits that make it a desirable building material. It is a renewable resource that can be grown quickly and abundantly, requiring minimal water and pesticides. Hemp also has a low carbon footprint, as it absorbs more CO2 than it emits during its growth cycle. Additionally, hemp is a durable material that resists pests, mold, and fire. It is also lightweight and easy to work with, making it a convenient option for construction projects.

Hempcrete: Properties and Applications

Hempcrete is a mixture of hemp hurds (the woody core of the hemp plant) and lime. Hempcrete is an ideal building material due to its insulating properties, fire resistance, and breathability. It is also non-toxic and produces no off-gassing, making it an excellent option for those who are sensitive to chemicals. Hempcrete is commonly used for insulation and wall systems, and it is also suitable for flooring and roofing.

Challenges in Hemp-Based Construction

Hemp-based construction is still a relatively new field, and there are some challenges to overcome. Hemp materials are not yet widely available, and there is a lack of research on the long-term performance and durability of hemp-based products. Additionally, hemp regulations can vary from state to state, and there is a lack of standardization in the industry.

Innovations in Hemp-Based Insulation

Innovations in hemp-based insulation are making it more accessible and affordable for builders. Hemp-based insulation is made from compressed hemp fibers, which have excellent insulating properties. It is also breathable and moisture-resistant, helping to prevent mold growth. New manufacturing techniques are also improving the consistency and quality of hemp insulation products.

Hemp Fibers: Improving Structural Integrity

Hemp can also be used to enhance the structural integrity of buildings. Hemp fibers can be integrated into building materials such as concrete or plaster, improving their tensile strength and reducing their overall weight. This can result in stronger, more durable structures that are less prone to cracking or damage.

Hemp-Based Composites: Strength and Durability

Hemp-based composites are a new and exciting development in the construction industry. These composites are made from a combination of hemp fibers and resins, creating a material with superior strength, durability, and flexibility. Hemp composites can be used for a variety of applications, including flooring, roofing, and exterior cladding.

Designing Sustainable Buildings with Hemp

Hemp-based construction is an excellent way to create sustainable buildings that are healthier for occupants and the environment. By using hemp, builders can reduce the carbon footprint of their projects, create non-toxic and energy-efficient buildings, and promote sustainable agriculture practices.

Regulatory Barriers and Solutions

Regulatory barriers can pose a challenge to the widespread adoption of hemp-based construction. Regulations can vary from state to state, and some building codes may not yet recognize hemp as a viable building material. However, there are solutions to these challenges. Builders can work with local policymakers to create more favorable regulations and codes, and promote the benefits of hemp-based construction to the public.

The Future of Hemp-Based Construction

The future of hemp-based construction is bright. As more research is conducted, and innovations in hemp-based materials continue to emerge, hemp will become a more widely accepted and accessible building material. Hemp-based construction can help to create a more sustainable, non-toxic, and healthy built environment for future generations.

Case Studies: Successful Hemp-Based Projects

Several successful hemp-based construction projects have already been completed around the world. These projects include the House of Hemp in the Netherlands, a hempcrete house in California, and a hemp-based office building in Germany. These projects demonstrate the viability and potential of hemp-based construction, and they serve as examples for future builders and designers.

Why Hemp is the Future of Construction

Hemp is a versatile and sustainable building material that has the potential to revolutionize the construction industry. Through innovations in hemp-based materials, builders can create healthier, more durable, and more energy-efficient buildings. While there are still challenges to overcome, the future of hemp-based construction is bright, and it is exciting to see what new possibilities will emerge in the coming years.

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Hemp trends to watch in 2023 and beyond

Hemp, the forgotten billion euro Industry is making a come back, guest post by David Hartigan


Hemp and hemp derived products have been a hot topic the last number of years as it comes back into the mainstream with high level Celebrities such as Whoopi Goldberg and Olivia Newton-John promoting its benefits.

Hemp trends to watch in 2023 and beyond

But hemp has been around long before the word Celebrity even existed. There are suggestions that the plant was first cultivated as far back as 8000 B.C. and evidence that it was used by the Egyptians for paper, sails and medicine.

Hemp is ingrained in human history with over 25,000 uses and has been relied upon through History for use in textiles, food and fuel. Hemp was such a vital resource that wars have been fought over its supply. At one point in History in the 1600’s Hemp was so valuable that it was regarded as legal tender in the US and you could pay your taxes with hemp in Pennsylvania, Virginia, and Maryland.

During WW2 the US Government even ran a Campaign “Hemp For Victory” to encourage farmers to grow hemp for fibre which was used to help with the war effort. Unfortunately shortly after the war ended heavy taxation and political policies resulted in Hemp being classified as a schedule 1 drug in the US and damaged its demand in Europe.

Only in recent years has the Industry been allowed to flourish again with the Farm Bill in 2018 which removed hemp from the Controlled Substances Act. Since then Hemp has been making a comeback in a big way and has huge potential to disrupt a number of sectors: Textiles, Construction, Food and food supplements, Fuel

Textile Industry

With natural resources in short supply and an increasing demand to move away from petroleum based products, the textile Industry is going through a dynamic change as it looks for more sustainable alternatives. This is where hemp has a huge potential to fill the gap in this $900+ billion Industry

Hemp Clothing and Textiles

Hemp unlike cotton does not require vast amounts of water so is much more sustainable and can be used to make a wide range of items such as jeans, T-shirts, socks, hoodies, towels etc. Hemp fabric is extremely durable as it is highly absorbent, lightweight and three times stronger than cotton. Already big brands like Patagonia have been using hemp fabrics in its clothing lines for nearly a decade and this trend is only set to increase.


Like all sectors the Construction Sector is really feeling the squeeze due to the rising cost of materials combined with supply issues. Not to mention a push from Governments to use more sustainable building materials to reduce their carbon footprint. Fortunately hemp may hold the solution to some of these problems as it can be used to create strong, durable, ecological building materials.

One of the most exciting uses of hemp is as a replacement for petroleum-based materials in new builds and retrofits. One example of this is Hempcrete, a product made from a mixture of hemp hurds (shives) and lime, sand, or pozzolans, which is used as a material for construction and insulation.With the global insulation market valued at over $64.9 Billion Hemp certainly has a promising future. Hempcrete is non toxic, fully biodegradable and has great insulation properties making it a superior building material.


As an insulation hemp works wonders as it absorbs heat during the day and stores it in the thermal mass of the wall which is then slowly released. This ensures it keeps your house cool during the day and warm at night.

Non-Hazardous and Non-Toxic

Hemp is extremely safe to work with as it is non-toxic and non-hazardous. This makes it a much safer material to work with compared to the likes of fibreglass or other petrochemical materials which are linked to adverse side effects.

Fully Recyclable, Natural Fire Resistant & pest resistant

As hempcrete is bio based it is fully recyclable meaning it won’t end up in a landfill making it even more eco friendly. Not only that it is known for being fireproof and pest resistant.

Food and food supplements

Hemp is a fantastic source of food for both humans and animals due to it being nutritionally dense. Hemp is a great source of protein and rich in omega 3 & 6 and Vitamin E. It also has high levels of magnesium, zinc, iron and calcium which are essential for a healthy heart. Hemp seeds are consumed widely across the World and companies are looking at how hemp can be used to make meat free burgers and even cow milk substitutes.

In terms of a feed for animals hemp is already widely used due to its high protein content and relatively low cost. The other benefit of using hemp as an animal feed is that it can be produced locally avoiding the need to import the likes of soya which is mainly produced in Asia helping to reduce unnecessary food miles.

In the food supplement sector Hemp is already thriving with the likes of CBD products sold widely across Europe. Hemp supplements are being used to help with everything from sleep issues, to pain and anxiety. Already experts are saying the CBD market could be worth $20 billion by 2024 as more people look for natural alternatives and lean away from pharmaceuticals


As the demand for energy increases and the energy crisis facing Europe worsens there is a pressing need to diversify away from traditional sources such as oil. The good news is that hemp seeds can be used to make a very reliable biodiesel.

Hemp has a high fuel yield and a short growth cycle making it an ideal rotational crop and it takes more Co2 out of the atmosphere than trees. Biodiesel made from the plant already meets clean air regulations and it is more environmentally friendly compared to other biofuel crops such as soya.

Hemp may also hold the key to the future of battery technology as a group of American and Canadian researchers found that the hemp bast fibres can be recycled into supercapacitors. The hemp fibres can be processed into carbon nanosheets, which are similar to graphene which is widely used in batteries. Compared to graphene, hemp is less expensive and works just as well for energy storage. 

David Hartigan is a former PwC Business Consultant and Smurfit graduate who got involved in the hemp industry back in 2017. He is one of the leading experts in Europe on Hemp & CBD and currently sits on the board for the Hemp Cooperative Ireland specialising in regulation and compliance. Currently he is working with a number of TD’s and government departments to ensure more support is provided to the emerging hemp industry in Ireland.