A team of researchers at New York’s Parsons School of Design has authored a nearly 200-page book laying out the case for hemp building materials as a healthy, environmentally sound alternative to conventional construction.
“Faced with a climate change crisis, there is an increasing demand for the construction industry to produce renewable, environmentally sustainable and benign construction materials,” write the authors, researchers from the school’s Healthy Materials Lab (HML), who extol hempcrete for its “valuable physical and natural chemical characteristics . . . which make it a compelling choice in construction.”
‘A simple change’
“A simple change to a fundamental building product used in the wall of a typical building . . . combined with the use of intelligent design will result in housing, including affordable housing, that will eliminate exposure to toxicity from other typical building materials,” the book also proclaims.
While noting hempcrete has gained steady momentum as a viable construction material among architects and designers, the authors caution that industrial hemp itself remains challenged by an overall lack of clear guidelines from the U.S. government, security in seed procurement and lack of processing infrastructure.
Learning from Europe
The book examines the feasibility of hempcrete block production through hempcrete demonstration projects, and includes introductions to industrial hemp farming, hemp and lime, the potential of manufacturing, and creation of hemp-based construction products. The authors argue that by adapting and advancing current practices from Europe, which is more advanced in hemp construction, the U.S. can scale up and become “a key actor in the advancement of the hemp industry.”
The Parsons Healthy Material Lab, the book’s publisher, works on projects that address broad societal change, and most recently has focused its research on more benign construction materials, with a particular emphasis on hemp-and lime-based materials as a viable alternative to oil-based construction materials.
HML is one of four partner organizations of the Healthy Affordable Materials Project (HAMP), which dates to 2015. HAMP is exploring the potential creation of job training and new jobs in agriculture and in the construction industry in small, underserved rural communities. HML works in partnership with local farmers, producers, and developers designing and demonstrating how healthier building materials can be incorporated to create affordable housing in rural communities across the United States.
Other partner organizations of HAMP are the Healthy Building Network (HBN), Health Product Declaration Collaborative (HPDC), and Green Science Policy Institute (GSPI). HAMP is funded by a grant from The JPB Foundation, a New York-based initiative active in eliminating poverty, and environmental and medical research. All are based in the USA.