Once upon a time, hemp could grow freely! It was found all over the world, cleaning soils, feeding pollinators, and helping living things heal themselves. Industrial hemp is a crop as old as ancient civilizations. In the Oki Islands near Japan, cannabis remains have been found, dating it’s use back to 8000 BC. Early forms of paper used hemp and other plant fibers, were made by the Chinese in early 2nd century. The classical Greek historian Herodotus (ca. 480 BC) reported that the inhabitants of Scythia would often inhale the vapors of hemp-seed smoke, both as ritual and for their own pleasurable recreation. Hemp’s role in the first 150 years of the United States cannot be underestimated. People used to leave hemp to heirs and it was so valuable that citizens could pay their taxes with it.
The plant’s primary uses come from the seeds, leaves, flower and stalk…basically the WHOLE plant. In 2014, the Industrial Hemp Farming Act was federally passed in the United States of America. In this bill, states were granted the right to individually choose to legalize the cultivation of the plant. Colorado was the first state to legally grow hemp in the country since WWII.
Hemp fell victim to the “Marijuana Tax Act” of 1937, however, the U.S. government issued a “Hemp for Victory” campaign in which farmers were encouraged to grow hemp so soldiers had access to the strongest fiber on Earth for their canvas tents, clothing, sails, and rope.
In 1943, hemp’s legality was reversed and was once again deemed as illegal.
In 1941, Henry Ford built a car from hemp and flax fibers. It was unique to its time because the car’s shell was deemed stronger than steel yet was lightweight and environmentally safe. The engine was made to run on ethanol, with the hopes that it’s buyers would run it on hemp oil. Today, we have cars that run on gasoline because of money and power over politics. Rockefellers’ new venture with petroleum made Ford a competition. Rockefeller pulled his strings in Washington and made sure alcohol was outlawed (Prohibition).
With all of the things hemp can replace in today’s supply chain, it is only a matter of time before hemp becomes the replacement for all petroleum and non-biodegradable products.
Left Hand Hemp knows there is a better way to build. Through hempcrete building workshops, we teach how to work with the hemp as a construction material. For this project. community members, students, hemp industry professionals and interested construction groups came together to help build an architecturally rendered, CO2 sequestering and fire-resistant building from “Hempcrete”.
Hempcrete consists of hemp hurd, lime and water.
Here is a quick peak at the timeline:
First, Architect Bob Escher, with Escher Designs in Vermont, and Homeowner Eric McKee came up with the design for the 16 x 20 workshop building.
Next, McKee talked to the city building code office about the properties and benefits of hempcrete and got an approval to build a 16 x 20 workshop space! A concrete pad was laid and in three weeks, we would were ready to begin putting up the structure!
The General Contractor, Timberwight, and Builder, Mark Cover from Forbes Road Sawmill put together the post and beam structure with wood from McKee’s family land in Pennsylvania. Beautiful 8 inch thick hemlock beams were milled and shipped to Denver. With the help of Mark’s right hand man, Onefree Foster, and a crew of ruffians, the post and beam structure was up in just 2 and a half days!
Hempcrete has to be formed into the walls in a similar way that concrete is poured into forms. The main difference is the texture, where concrete is wet, hempcrete has the consistency of moist granola. Forming is always the slowest part of the process with hempcrete. We had an amazing group who were able to more than handle the task of moving, cutting, and attaching the forms as the hempcrete crew was always close behind. Ideally, a homeowner would want to construct a monolithic structure (hempcrete for the walls, the floors, and the ceilings of the building) as to eliminate thermal bridging to the outside.
The simple ratio of hemp hurd, lime and water is used in creating the hempcrete insulation material. In a mortar mixer (not concrete mixer) we mixed together Saint Astier’s Batichanvre, (Hydraulic Lime), from Transmineral, hemp hurd from Ole Dominion Hemp, and water.
We had teams mixing and packing in the forms. The mixing team tested each batch to ensure we reached our desired consistency. Once the batch was ready (about 10 minutes in mixer) it was transported to the building where the ready team of hempsters was anxiously waiting to put it into the forms. When installing the hempcrete, it is best to “hand tamp” with enough pressure to compact it, but not too much as you could diminish the pore space between the hurd pieces. Overtamping with tools and too much force can lessen the R value by reducing the amount of air that is able to be trapped in the material.
Hempcrete replaces fiberglass, drywall, and latex paint.
A natural earthen plaster is the best exterior and interior treatments for hempcrete.
Hempcrete is said to be the greatest building material on Earth and here is your chance to learn how to build with it! Industrial Hemp is one of the most sustainable crops to grow because it pulls toxins from the air and soil and farmers love the way it renders the soil cleaner and with more nutrients than before it was planted, unlike corn, soy and wheat which often leaves the ground depleted of nutrients. The average estimate of 2-3 acres of hemp crop provide enough material to build a 1,500 sq. ft. hempcrete home!
The porous properties of the hemp hurd (broken up stalk) makes any properly built hempcrete structure an excellent humidity controller. When mixed with lime binders, it renders the building flame, mold and pest resistant! Yes, you “hurd” that correctly! Hemp is a natural building material that requires no toxic materials in its growing or building process.
The founder, Kelly Thornton, first learned about sustainable building materials through strawbale construction. After learning about hemp has even better properties than straw, he knew hemp construction could be a game changer for communities across the world. Which is why this summer, the company will be teaching seminars across the country and three different workshops on Native American Reservations.
Left Hand Hemp is looking for individuals that want to learn more about the properties and building process of hempcrete. Learn about the workshops here
Because it is a fairly new concept to this country, many folks don’t know how it works until they get their hands in it. “We know hempcrete is the best building material on Earth, we want to teach everyone how to build with it so that they can take the knowledge with them.”
What can you expect from attending a workshop? Expect to leave with enough resources to build your own home and the knowledge to teach others how to build in their community. By working hands-on with the materials, students will feel the properties and characteristics of the material and will learn how to properly build.
Left Hand Hemp will be conducting hempcrete seminars as often as they come our way. The seminars will include a week full of hempcrete education by participating in every aspect of the construction of a structure from mixing to building, participants will walk away with a head full of knowledge about hempcrete as a natural building material.
If you are interested in attending or hosting a workshop, contact us at firstname.lastname@example.org or go here to sign up.
Refunds will not be issued after two weeks before the build start date, cancellation due to weather, or host cancellation.