Pennsylvania builder gets $1.9 million from U.S. Army for key hempcrete research

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A Pennsylvania company will look at key performance factors for hempcrete construction after receiving a $1.9 million research and development grant from the U.S. Army.

Allentown-based Americhanvre Cast Hemp said it will join with research partners to study the material’s resistance to fire, its insulation properties, and carbon footprint.

The Army’s Small Business Innovation Research Program (SBIR) is providing the funding, which is targeted at environmentally friendly construction technologies that reduce fuel and material consumption. The program, a congressionally mandated initiative that supports small businesses in the development of technology, is an effort to meet the goals of the Department of Defense Climate Adaptation Plan and the Army Climate Strategy.

‘Proof positive’

“This is proof positive that the Department of Defense and the U.S. Army have taken their own carbon footprint seriously as the single largest real-estate holder in the DoD,” Americhanvre said in a press release. “The U.S. Army has also acknowledged the role that biogenic insulation materials, such as hempcrete, may have in reducing that carbon footprint.”

The project will help advance the testing of materials and in turn make it easier for builders to embark on large-scale projects, said Americhanvre co-founder Cameron McIntosh.

The sustainable building materials initiative “provides a valuable opportunity to connect the Army . . . with firms that do not typically apply for SBIR awards,” said Matt Willis of the SBIR program. “This solicitation leverages new developments in the field of low-logistics structural materials to tackle the carbon-intensive aspect of military operations.”

French technology

Americhanvre is the exclusive U.S. licensee of the Baumer Ereasy Spray Applied Hempcrete system designed in Malbrans, France by Damien Baumer. Since 2021, Americhanvre has commercialized the Ereasy system and has executed more than 30 residential and commercial residential hempcrete projects based on the French technology, in which a mixture of lime and hemp “hurds” into hempcrete is spray applied. Americhanvre has also begun to re-produce the Ereasy equipment domestically, and has provided the system to owner-operators across the U.S.

Under the grant, Americhanvre will work with a variety of sub-contractors to execute fire resistance testing, life-cycle assessment, in-field performance monitoring of completed installations and further development of domestic resources for the raw materials required for hempcrete installation.

The Pennsylvania Housing Research Center (PHRC) at Penn State University will expand on an in-field performance monitoring regimen designed by PHRC to monitor an installation of Ereasy applied hempcrete at Project PA Hemp Home, a Pennsylvania Department of Agriculture-funded low-income housing project in New Castle, Pennsylvania. The team at PHRC will re-create this study on six hempcrete installations around the country.

Carbon accounting

Americhanvre has also enlisted Hudson Carbon, led by Ben Dobson in Hudson, NY, to perform a life cycle assessment (LCA) of previous installations to create data in support of Americhanvre’s effort to establish an Environmental Product Declaration (EPD) for hempcrete.

Finally, Americhanvre will perform ASTM E-119 fire resistance testing with Intertek in York, Pennsylvania. Those tests are expected to yield a one-hour fire rating for various wall assembly details incorporating hempcrete.

Construction at all of the research sites was via the Ereasy Spray Applied Hempcrete system.

Sativa Building Systems LLC; Wittenberg, Wis., a maker of thermal hempcrete panels, received a smaller grant of $250,000 under the Army program.

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