Add together the energy used to manufacture construction materials with the transportation of these materials, construction workers, and construction equipment. Then add this to the energy used in the construction industry to build, demolish, and dispose of construction waste. When you add all of these together, it’s easy to see why the US construction industry is one of the leading causes of climate change. Moreover, hempcrete, a product invented way back around 1,000 BC, may be able to change the construction industry.
Fun facts about the construction industry:
- From concept to demolition, the construction industry accounts for approximately half of all energy consumption in the world.
- During their lifetime, buildings contribute in one way or another to approximately half of the CO2 emitted around the world.
- The construction industry accounts for approximately 25% of the timber used in the world.
- Transportation of construction materials to the worksite accounts for approximately 8% of the greenhouse gas emissions for the entire project.
- Concrete and reinforced steel manufacture are responsible for up to 95% of the greenhouse gas emissions created by construction materials.
- Here in the United States, commercial and residential construction consumes approximately 70% of the energy produced. At the same time, it also accounts for almost 40% of all CO2 emissions.
Hempcrete construction materials are an excellent alternative to many traditional building materials. They can transform the construction industry by making it more environmentally friendly and energy-efficient. Using materials such as hempcrete blocks can play a major role in helping to reduce global warming.
Concrete vs. Hempcrete Manufacturing Process
Concrete and steel typically involve the use of numerous toxic chemicals during the manufacturing process. To make matters worse, they can continue to emit toxins long after the contractors finish the construction of the building in question.
On the other hand, hemp comes from a fully renewable resource. The hemp plant can absorb many of the toxins, including CO2 and heavy metals, as it grows. More importantly, the plants reach full maturity in only four months. In addition to this, processing hemp into hempcrete requires far less energy. From start to finish, hempcrete is far less damaging to our environment. Hemp is a sustainable resource that requires little water or pesticides to grow. Most importantly, as hemp grows, it absorbs toxins from the ground and CO2 from the air instead of causing more pollution.
Hemp hurds, the woody part in the middle of the hemp stem are the central component in making hempcrete. The hurds or shivs have, for many years, been a waste byproduct. However, when you mix them with lime and water, the mixture becomes hempcrete. Hempcrete can be turned into hempcrete blocks, sheets of hempcrete insulation, even a form of plaster to add more protection to the building under construction.
Transportation of Building Materials
No matter what type of building materials the contractors use in construction, they must transport them to the job site. Transportation creates large amounts of pollution in the form of vehicle exhaust that contains high levels of greenhouse gasses.
In many cases, hemp can be grown closer to the processing and production facilities. Not only does this reduce the cost of transportation, but it also helps reduce the emission of greenhouse gasses. Research is underway to look at the potential for processing the hemp on the farm. This will also help to reduce costs and emissions. In theory, both processing and transportation equipment can run using hemp-based biodiesel, but this is still undergoing research.
Building with Hempcrete Blocks and Materials
Hemp and hempcrete is an excellent alternative to more traditional construction materials. It can replace concrete, steel, and timber using hempcrete blocks, hemp fiberboard, and hemp insulation, among its many other uses.
Hempcrete is a non-toxic, lightweight material that is fully biodegradable. In most instances, the construction company makes the products it needs for the project on-site. However, you can purchase ready-made hempcrete blocks, pre-cast wall sections, and insulation mats.
One of the true beauties of hempcrete is that you can mold around virtually any shape. Once it sets, the hempcrete can support its own weight. In the case of hempcrete blocks, they can support far more than their own weight without the need for steel reinforcing rods.
Hempcrete Blocks Equal Reduced Energy Usage
The use of fossil fuels for transportation, heating, cooling, lighting, powering appliances, and electrical equipment creates plenty of greenhouse gasses. Consequently, using hempcrete in the construction of homes, offices, and other buildings, it will help to regulate both temperature and humidity. Depending on the location and type of building, hempcrete can eliminate the need for air conditioning and heating. This will lead to further energy savings.
According to Kris J. Dick, associate professor at the Department of Biosystems Engineering at the University of Manitoba in Winnipeg, ” Hempcrete is used as an environmental barrier for providing resistance to heat transfer and managing moisture of the building envelope. Engineers and architectural designers practicing in the field of nonconventional material applications have clearly indicated a need for more design data regarding hempcrete.”
Long-Lasting Construction Material
One of the most noticeable advantages of hempcrete building materials is their longevity. Unlike many building materials that become weaker over time, hempcrete only gets stronger. The reason for this? The lime in use as a binding agent calcifies and hardens over time. Experts say that a hempcrete building can last for several hundred years.
For example, there is a bridge in France that dates back over 800 years. This bridge appears to have been built using an ancient variety of hempcrete. Beyond a few minor repairs, the bridge is still in use today! Hemp may be a construction material from the past, but it looks like we are learning from history. As a result of this, the construction industry may make a massive switch to this material over the next few decades.