Photo: Greg Wilson (R) in the new Beverly Hills BMW showroom which uses HempWood for flooring. Photo courtesy HempWood.
By Jean Lotus
Attendees at the U.S. Hemp Building Summit in Austin, Texas, this fall got a sneak peek of some of the new products and services in the works in the hemp building and construction world for 2022.
Hemp building pioneers revealed new prototypes, plans and processes as the hemp building industry ramps up. The industrial hemp plant was legalized in the 2018 Farm Bill following 80 years of prohibition.
New hemp-based construction materials and services on the scene will include imported hemp blocks, decking, insulation products, hemp building classes and multiple new regional processing centers popping up across the country.
Decarbonization in Focus
In 2022, the hemp building industry should get a boost from the federal government because the U.S. Department of Energy is taking a new look at hemp building materials, conference organizer Tommy Gibbons of Idaho-based Hempitecture, Inc. told attendees.
“Decarbonization is the one word that really gets the Department of Energy excited,” Gibbons said. Gibbons is participating in a two-year fellowship with the DOE’s Innovation Crossroads program at Oak Ridge National Lab in Tennessee.
“They really see hemp as a tool to take carbon out of the air, turn it into value-added products and do that at scale. Decarbonization has become a huge focus of this administration and this Department of Energy, they are willing to go all-in on that,” he added.
USA-sourced HempWool Insulation Batts, Hempcrete Blocks, Insulative Sheathing
Coming in 2022 from Hempitecture will be domestically sourced HempWool insulation batts manufactured at the company’s new Magic Valley, Idaho manufacturing facility. The batts will be made from American-grown hemp processed by IND HEMP in Montana.
Hempitecture will also import multiple shipping containers of Belgium-based IsoHemp’s 6” and 10” hempcrete blocks through the port of Houston to offer as an introductory product, starting in early 2022, Gibbons said.
The company also received a $400,000 R & D grant from the Department of Energy for a hemp fiber continuous insulation sheathing product, now in development, to roll out in late 2022, Gibbons said.
“We’ve been thinking for a long time, how can we compete with these incumbent insulation manufacturers? And the answer is beat them at every single product that they provide,” Gibbons added.
HempWood: New factories, fiberboard, structural timber and decking
Greg Wilson of Murray, KY-based HempWood said the company sells its carbon-negative compressed hemp flooring in multiple retail locations nationwide.
Most recently, HempWood was used as flooring for a new BMW electric vehicle showroom opening in Beverly Hills. The company is also providing some components for the cars, Wilson said. HempWood has been used in California upscale cannabis dispensaries, as well as flooring for a Target store in San Francisco, Wilson said.
“These big companies are starting to hear what everyone [in the hemp world] is saying,” Wilson told the crowd.
The company also makes hardwood boards for furniture or lathing, similar to oak, and veneer for plywood cabinetry finishes. HempWood uses soy-based glue and has no off-gassing VOCs found in other flooring products, Wilson said.
In 2022, the company is expanding with new factories planned in Oregon, Pennsylvania, and Poland, with other locations, possibly Montana, Missouri and Texas on the horizon, Wilson said.
New products under development from HempWood include a hemp-based flat strand sheathing board similar to oriented strand board (OSB) which Wilson called “OHB,” as well as load-bearing laminated veneer structural timber (LVL) that can be used for home elements such as rafters.
Responding to the consumer demand and “10 to 20% of phone calls” asking for products that can be used outside, the company is developing recycled hemp bioplastic products, including a Trex-like decking product, Wilson said.
“We’ll figure out how to do a waterproof flooring, decking, those types of things, using recycled plastics and our hemp sawdust,” he said.
Hempcrete Masterclass, Online Carbon Footprint Tracker
Hemp Building summit keynote speaker, Canadian natural builder and carbon expert Chris Magwood has been busy promoting educational and policy output going into 2022.
The author of one of the foremost hemp building books is starting 2022 with an online Hempcrete Masterclass in January through his nonprofit sustainable building school Endeavor Centre in Peterborough, Ontario. Magwood also co-authored a Microsoft-financed report by the Carbon Leadership Forum advising the company to build new data centers with hemp and/or other natural materials.
Magwood and nonprofit Builders for Climate Action have mapped out the steps to achieve net-zero carbon homes with Natural Resources Canada and will be rolling out the BEAM carbon footprint calculator in 2022 which can calculate embodied carbon in a building based on building materials.
In 2022, Magwood will publish a new book, Build Beyond Zero: New Ideas for Carbon-Smart Architecture.
Hempcrete Installation Faster, More Affordable
Using a spray-apply system for hempcrete insulation has led to a democratization of hemp insulation allowing more projects to be finished faster and more efficiently, said Cameron McIntosh, of Pennsylvania-based Americhanrvre. Projects are completed in 60% less time and take 6-8 weeks to cure, as opposed to several months.
“This will lighten our reliance on fossil fuels and make our existing home inventory healthier,” he said.
McIntosh, a hemp insulation subcontractor, licensed the EREASY spray system from a French manufacturer and completed 10 different projects in six states in 2021, he said. All of those projects required hemp hurd and binder sourced from France, but In 2022, the EREASY will be manufactured in the United States, and sold by Americhanvre, along with a local binder from U.S. lime available in 2023, he said.
Hemp Matchmaking, Regional Processing Facilities
Summit attendee and Texas-based real estate investor and hemp builder Ray Kaderli announced the formation of the Hemp Build Network, a referral and matchmaking service for homeowners and home builders seeking architects, engineers, supplies and other professional referrals. The company also hosted multiple hemp building workshops in Texas in November, co-sponsored by HempBuild Magazine.
Acquiring the woody hemp hurd in the United States to build with hempcrete has been a challenge until this year, with builders importing the product from Europe and China. But multiple regional industrial hemp processing facilities are springing up, and a few were represented at the summit.
At South Bend Industrial Hemp, in Great Bend, KS, co-founder and crop scientist Melissa Nelson said the company is currently processing 2021 fiber hemp grown by regional farmers.
“The hurd is out the door as fast as we can process it,” Nelson said.
Lori Daytner, representing the western Pennsylvania nonprofit DON Processing, said the company is still seeking investors and will be rolling out a factory in 2022 that, with other hemp-related businesses, will employ 100 people in the region. DON, a disability advocacy group, remodeled a New Castle, PA home with hempcrete with a grant from the Pennsylvania Department of Agriculture, to show local farmers and builders the potential of hemp building materials.
Also represented was Environmental Living Industries, a hemp processing company to be based in northeast Texas near the Oklahoma border, said CEO Bryan Wilson. The company will start up in 2022, Wilson said.
Hemp product pioneer Lawrence Serbin’s new vertical growing and processing facility, Riverdale Hemp Factory in Riverdale, CA, will be up and running after the hemp harvest in August, 2022 Serbin said. Riverside, a subsidiary of Hemp Traders, will produce hemp hurd, for building materials and animal bedding, as well as powdered hemp hurd, used for pulp, engineered wood products, polymer compounds and plastics.
The summit offered an exciting glimpse of some of the hemp products, policies and innovations that are in store for 2022 as the hemp building industry moves forward.
“There’s literally nothing standing in the way of us building tens of thousands of hempcrete homes over the next 30 to 50 years, except our own limitations,” McIntosh of Americhanvre told the conference. “Solutions for expediting building healthy, sustainable homes to be more affordable and accessible exist now,” he added.
“We have an opportunity to deliver the hemp-building industry into the hands of our children as a local, sustainable and inclusive industry that focuses on community, environmental stewardship and responsible profit-making,” he said.
This article also appeared in HempBuild Magazine.
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Jean Lotus is a Colorado-based award-winning journalist and hempreneur who writes about the American West and sustainable food and technologies.