The US Hemp Building Association (USHBA), a professional organization representing the US hemp building industry, submitted hempcrete insulation for certification in the US building code earlier this month.
The non-profit arm of USHBA, the US Hemp Building Foundation, presented the material as an appendix to the International Residential Codes (IRC) on the 10th of January this year.
If approved, hempcrete would become standard building material for residential construction, reducing dependency on other construction materials and enabling the hemp industry to become more mainstream.
Hempcrete, otherwise known as hemplime, is a biocomposite material comprised of hemp hurds and lime, sand, or pozzolans. Professionals in the construction industry use hempcrete for insulation and building purposes. Unlike concrete, hempcrete is not brittle, which means it has more longevity and weighs significantly less compared to the latter.
Hempcrete’s insulation capabilities make it ideal for most climates. It is also fire resistant, thermally regulating, vapor-permeable, and repels molds and pests.
The material’s insulation is carbon negative which ensures sustainability and reduces the overall carbon footprint of the construction industry. For this reason, hempcrete performs relatively better than most construction materials.
An international committee of experts and advocates in the hemp building industry prepared the documents for the certification of hempcrete and presented them to the International Code Council.
Code experts from the IRC will review the paperwork in March and September to decide whether hempcrete should become a standard building material in America.
While we can expect plenty of new trends in the cannabis industry this year, the use of hempcrete in construction will arguably be the most environmentally conscious one if the proposal passes.
At the moment, American architects, engineers, and builders who want to use hempcrete in a construction project have to get approvals for every building assignment due to the lack of an overarching building code in favor of the material.
Using hempcrete for a building project is still a rather arduous and costly task. Plus, since multiple approvals may be required, using hemplime for construction can also be slow and time-consuming at the moment.
In an interview, USHBA President Jacob Waddel expressed that the documents his organization submitted will provide a manual for using hempcrete as a building material. Essentially, the idea behind the submission was to familiarize US building permitting departments with hempcrete, which is relatively new to America after lawmakers legalized hemp in 2018.
While USHBA’s proposal may help accelerate the process of making hempcrete more accessible for construction, it might still take some time before relevant authorities can implement the legislation.
Hempcrete still has to pass various fire and structural bracing tests from the American Society for Testing and Materials (ASTM).
Moreover, the American construction industry has a lot of catching up to do when it comes to using hemp building materials.
Hempcrete has been a prevalent carbon-negative insulation material in Europe for the better part of the past three decades.
Construction experts have used it as an insulation material for large department stores in the United Kingdom and thermal mass purposes in public facilities and multistory residential buildings in France.
There’s no denying that European countries are reluctant about cannabis use, given that Malta is the only country within the European Union to decriminalize recreational cannabis.
However, their utilization of hemp materials for construction demonstrates that they are open to the alternative benefits of cannabis plants. Even so, with many people slowly starting to support marijuana reforms in the region, it’s only a matter of time before more countries allow adults to use their glass dab rigs legally.
Despite the late start, people in America are not ready to be left behind in using hemplime for construction.
Perhaps one of the most significant structures to utilize hempcrete is the Cape Cod Hemp House in Harwich, Massachusetts. The 6,000 square-foot home is a pioneering building in the United States with net-zero energy use.
Being the first in America, the Cape Cod Hemp House helped USHBA officials research and publish the proposal they submitted to IRC.
Although getting a permit for using hempcrete when constructing the Cape Cod Hemp House was relatively simple, industry leaders believe that including the material in the IRC codes will be game-changing.
Doing this will help local building permitting authorities better understand hemplime and learn the material’s strengths and weaknesses.
If the IRC approves USHBA’s proposal, it will pave the way for the certification of hempcrete for commercial buildings. Although the application only calls for hempcrete to insulate one-story structures, it only marks the beginning as more research and testing will clear the path for more complex buildings.