Long before prohibitionist policies outlawed the cultivation, processing and sale of hemp, the plant had a wide range of functional uses, including being one of the most common fabric materials on the globe. Now that territories around the world are loosening their policies and launching hemp programs, more companies are hoping to take advantage of hemp’s many uses. One of the most interesting hemp applications has been using it as a building material called hempcrete.
Hempcrete is developed by mixing hemp turd with water and lime. The material only weighs a fraction of regular concrete, has a low carbon footprint as well as great moisture handling and resistance properties, and is fire resistant. A federal agency has now kickstarted a pilot project that would see researchers develop hempcrete using 3D-printing technology in an effort to create affordable housing.
The Department of Energy has provided Texas A&M University with $3.47 million in funding via its Advanced Research Projects Agency-Energy (ARPA-E) Harnessing Emissions into Structures Taking Inputs from the Atmosphere (HESTIA) program. The engineering department from A&M notes that hempcrete is a lightweight and durable alternative to conventional building materials.
The department also mentioned hempcrete’s relatively low carbon footprint. Lead researcher and assistant professor P. Sideris said that the hemp-based building material is a net carbon-negative material unlike regular building materials such as concrete whose production consumes a lot of energy and emits significant carbon dioxide into the atmosphere. The Global Concrete & Cement Association estimates that each ton of cement emits around half a ton of carbon dioxide.
Furthermore, the World Steel Association estimates that producing a ton of steel results in 1.85 tons of carbon emissions, with steel production being responsible for a whopping 8% of CO2 emissions.
Sideris states that hempcrete has excellent thermal insulating and fire-resistance properties that could allow homeowners to reduce their heating and energy costs. This federally funded research will help the United States maintain its global position as a developer of advanced construction techniques, infrastructure sustainability and resilient technologies, he said.
An assistant professor in the Zachry Department of Civil & Environmental Engineering, Sideris will lead the research team in developing potential designs for commercial and residential properties. His team is rounded out by Zachary Grasley, a head of department and professor, assistant professor Maria Koliou, associate professor Manish Dixit, and Texas A&M College of Architecture professor Wei Yan.
The Department of Energy has also sponsored a separate project on the development of hemp fiber insulation.
As more of these studies receive federal funding, the proliferation of cannabis and other crop-cultivation technologies, such as the micro gardens pioneered by Advanced Container Technologies Inc. (OTC: ACTX), is likely to increase as more uses of various cannabis species are found.
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