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Deep Green Building: Making history in Poland

Team DGB: Front row, from left, Marcin, Paivi, Piotr, Berglind, Kristaps, Szymon, Marcin; Back row from left, Elisabeth, Hugo, Henry, Noora, Miguel, Wolf, Gizem, John, Przemek, Max, Marshall, Kehrt
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We’d wrapped up Deep Green Building 2018 a week earlier when The Master rang. “How’s the wall?” he asked.

The Polish winter deep freeze is upon us, and the hempcrete we installed to create our first interior wall in the attic at HempToday Center is still being put to the temperature test more than a week later; we’ve not extended the central heating to that level yet. At this moment, if you press hard with your index finger, you can still make a slight indentation. That is, by the way, a lovely feeling. And today the weather is warming. So far, so good.

Wolf and Tommy in the kitchen.

“Make sure to put up as many pictures as you can of those ‘wooooooonderful’ people,” The Master said.

Commited to hemp

There were 27 in total, from 12 countries and, yes, they all were wonderful. Brilliant. Funny. Committed to hemp. And hardworking. Except for Henry. He’d had an appendectomy 2 days before showing up, which we counted as a flimsy excuse for not doing his part. Nonetheless we let him stay because we like Freddie, his dog.

More importantly, Henry’s a great conversationalist over a “Tennessee Tuck,” and coffee or a beer in the kitchen. Freddie hangs out there too most of the time, waiting for something tasty to drop. Which Tommy Mullen, Mystic Mountain Hemp, Idaho Springs, Colorado, USA was always doing when he wasn’t misplacing dishware or utensils. Some Guest Chef.

Day 1: Science in the morning

On the morning of Day 1, The Master gave an overview of hemp-lime construction and a fascinating lecture on how it all works down to the molecular level. If only I’d had a science teacher like Wolf Jordan at university.

Piotr Jastrzębski, Podlaskie Konopie (‘Podlaskie Hemp’), and Przemek Brzyski, Budynki Konopi (‘Hemp Buildings’), both of Poland, shared their experiences in farming, processing and construction and prepped us for the actual build, aided by some of Poland’s leading natural builders.

This was a practiced and highly skilled work crew that performed like a well-oiled machine – giving delegates not only lessons in applying the material but also in work organization, which is critical to the overall hempcrete building process. Wolf agreed it was one of the best teams he’d ever worked with.

From field to build

Piotr farms hemp and other crops in northeastern Poland, processes hemp straw for construction and builds with it. He has a hempcrete house in a hemp field. Przemek is a scientist/builder – rare combination – who already has built several hempcrete structures in Poland, and who has a number of hempcrete construction projects lined up for the 2019 building season. Piotr and Przemek work together, having created a full hemp-building value chain of their own.

Wolf, who hates the cold, braved it out at the mixing truck (-6 C/+20F) to give delegates detailed guidance in reaching the right consistency for the fresh material.

Strategy session

Everything was going well until the town water system failed. Which forced us to the dining table for a delicious hemp-laced lunch and strategy session.

Then was quickly formed the Crazy Polish Hemp Building Association (CPHBA). They came up with the idea to take some barrels to a local lake, break the ice and haul the vital ingredient back – if it meant we could build that day. We’d already bought out all the local stores of bottled water (sorry) and bought two big plastic (sorry) barrels when, alas, the water supply to the palace was restored mid-afternoon.

Soon, a conga line of building enthusiasts was tamping hempcrete into the forms.

What’s happening in hempcrete building?

In morning exchanges there emerged a general consensus that France is the leading hemp-building nation. After that, Italy, according to Wolf, who also pointed out that there is a growing amount of activity in tiny Belgium, where his firm, Wolf Jordan & Co., is HQ’d. Australia also was flagged for its growing hemp-lime construction community while the UK is notable for specific larger-scale projects, and the USA for a rapid expansion of hemp building workshops and great media exposure of this remarkable resource as a healthy alternative to the toxic materials now in our homes.

The thing is: No real statistics are available as far as hempcrete construction is concerned, so any analysis is based on off-the-cuff and off-record conversations with key suppliers, contractors and people actually ordering such buildings. Needless to say, it’s a sparse and dispersed group. In some sense figures don’t matter anyway. What matters is pulling together committed entrepreneurs to build, build, build; to get together and share knowledge and help each other, form business relationships and bring others into the fold.

Naked tanning in the snow

On the morning of Day 2, we talked about how hemp can work in various market models, and we agreed it’s important to promote and support Community Supported Agriculture, cooperatives and development of local value chains.

Not everyone attended the lectures that morning. The Iceland Delegate lay in the snow naked, tanning, while the guys in the CPHBA took warm baths in the yellow suite, using up the precious water we feared would be interrupted again at any moment. After their baths, the Polish boys bundled up against the elements in sweaters and heavy coats, ready for the hands-on work session. The Iceland Delegate put on sweatpants and a T-shirt, mostly for modesty’s sake, and showed off her biceps by throwing around tubs of hempcrete like a dock worker. The wall grew.

Speaking of history

On the morning of Day 3, The Master gave a brief and bright talk about natural finishings and paints before demonstrating application of a specially formulated hempcrete mixture to the inside of an exterior wall as insulation. And later, the paint. If you ever want to hear a beautiful, spontaneous essay about life, just ask Wolf Jordan about color. This is a special triangular section of wall that, on the outside, holds the artistic masonry that makes up the joined crests of the Młodzanowski and Bystrzonowski families who built the palace in 1776.

The wall we built is the first ever constructed in the attic of The Palace at Nakło, where HempToday Center has its editorial and learning center, and where we plan six total guest rooms, all walls built with hempcrete. It is the perfect material. – Kehrt Reyher


On the crew:

Heinrich Wieker/Germany – Henry is looking to help ease the harvesting and processing stages for small and medium-sized farms and has been doing intense research and development for the past two years on Henry’s Hemp Harvester. He is an electrical engineer and owner of H8 Automation, a startup which is developing the machine.

Tommy Mullin/USA – Tommy is a lifelong cannabis and hemp activist and the owner of startup Mystic Mountain Hemp. He is also a chef and restaurateur, having worked at top restaurants in Atlanta, Four Seasons 5 Diamond Hotel/Denver, and Tommy Knocker Brewery.

Hana Gabrielova/Czech Republic – CEO at Hempoint, a hemp consultancy and one of Europe’s pioneering and most innovative hemp food companies. Hana is a widely recognized expert on everything from hemp farming and product development to Patient Focused Certification (PFC) for medical cannabis.

Hugo Wolf/Sweden – Hugo has five years experience as a builder but now calls himself a do-t-yourselfer. His goal is to start a hempcrete construction company after completing a couple of projects on family property.

John Rembold/USA – John began his career in Los Angeles at a tech startup. In 2009 he took a sabbatical to work on a WWOOF organic farm in rural Wisconsin. This experience led to a curiosity of how to bring sustainable building practices to the urban core. In 2016 he purchased a commercial building in Duluth MN to use as a pilot project for a green building renovation.

Elisabeth Peters/Holland – Elisabeth develops products and provides counseling and consulting aimed at keeping people healthy as individuals in their work and living situations through

Noora Norokytö/Finland – Noora is a hemp industry developer in Finland who has been working with hemp many years. She works at Turku University of Applied Sciences and is manager of two hemp building projects — the first ones in Finland.

Päivi Simi/Finland – Päivi is an environmental planner and project advisor at Turku University of Applied Sciences. She’s a coordinator in hemp building projects and a permaculture activist.

Gizem Tutumlu/Turkey – Gizem is working on international documentary films about hemp, with a goal to show people in Turkey the potential for the plant. She’s studied Business Administration in Turkey and Marketing Communication in London.

Kemal Tuğrul Sümer/Turkey – Tuğrul works in digital broadcasting as a videographer and content creator; he studied Communication and Design.

Berglind Sævarsdóttir/Iceland – Berglind is studying to be a technical engineer and will soon get her Bsc degree; she intends to work with hemp in the future.

Kristaps Eglītis/Latvia – Kristaps is an arts & crafts metal worker who wants to build a family house from hemp-lime.

Marcin Krzyzkowiak/Poland – Marchin is a student in Warsaw University of Technology’s Faculty of Management. He’s working on a project to run a deep analysis on the Polish and European hemp markets

Miguel Carlos Negrão de Sousa Pereira/Portugal – Miguel works in brand protection and has a small family business. He wants to farm hemp and establish a hemp building company.

Jarosław Stadnik/Poland – Jarek is President of the Ecological and Cultural Association FREEDOM. An activist who works on sustainability projects, he’s also owner of Polish cannabis portals and, natural building portal, and GlinoDom Natural Building company.

Łukasz Tarnowski/Poland – Łukasz is a freelancer and social activist spreading knowledge on healthy lifestyle; he’s a member of The Zeitgeist Movement, which educates about self-sufficient eco-cities. He’s interested in natural dome building, and promotes medical applications for hemp and marijuana.

Szymon Sarnicki/Poland – Szymon is a natural builder, plasterer, and producer of natural plasters and paints. He’s specialized in strawbale, green roofs, tadelakt, clay and lime plasters. Experienced on many buildings in Poland and Europe. Owner of Biohabitat company. In natural building industry for more than 10 years. Member OSBN.

Marcin Kacprzyk/Poland – Marcin is a natural builder, contractor of strawbale houses, hempcrete, and a producer and contractor of natural clay plasters. He has been building for over a dozen years, and was involved in the construction and finishing of the first fully insulated hemp house in Poland . He’s the owner of the company Costka.

Max Germain/Poland-USA – Max is a Polish/American natural builder, carpenter and plasterer. He’s been in the building industry for almost 20 years, and was involved in several dozen strawbale buildings in Poland, and was the main carpenter for the first fully insulated hemp house in Poland.

Mateusz Grzondko/Poland – Mateusz represents Poland’s Cohabitat Foundation, which works on sustainability issues. He plans to build a hempcrete house in the future.

Radoslaw Zurkowski/Poland – Radek has worked in the construction industry and as a farmer. He wants to build his own hempcrete house.

Ludvik Tous/Czech Republic – Ludvik is a self-taught builder and jack-of-all trades around the construction for new builds and renovation.

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