What? How? and WOW!
For years, the super-fiber, hemp has been at the forefront for its ground-breaking and revolutionary uses that are all environmentally friendly and reusable, but has failed to be taken seriously due to the stigma and association to its crazy cousin, Mary Jane. “Hemp has been deemed by many as a miracle crop with “25,000” uses and that it “can save the world.” One particular use of hemp, often touted, is the potential to replace standard concrete.
The crop has been reported as better for the environment, easier to grow and “has been suppressed for decades by corporate interests.” (Woods, Taylor, 2019) Hempcrete is one of the most unique building materials that is made from industrial hemp.
The fundamental ingredient for creating hempcrete is the hemp hurds which are the woody inner parts of the actual hemp stalk. The hurds are broken into fragments and swiftly separated from the fiber by the action of ‘scutching’ them. Scutching is a process that helps separate the impurities from the raw materials and can be done either by hand or by the suitably named ‘scutcher’ machine.
When mixed together, it produces a slurry which can be formed into walls of buildings. This can then be manipulated into structural bricks which do not require any cement, concrete or rebar. From there, your hempcrete can now be layered just like normal bricks with an adhesive binder between each layer.
Locally, Envirolite Concrete, headed up by technical director, Dylan Cowie, are making waves in the industrial industry by beginning the production phase of their own hempcrete (not available for public consumption yet).
The company have been working on this project for over a year now after they located a source in the U.K in which to import hemp hurds from, as well as, using Capetonian based business, Hemporium. Although Envriolite are in the experimental phase of development, having still to undergo government implemented testing in which to ensure the quality of their hempcrete, Cowie says they are well underway to be one of the first South African companies to locally manufacture and produce this revolutionary product.
Hempcrete has been identified as the viable option in which to replace current practices as it is greener than mercenary brickwork and it has very low cement content. Hempcretes process of hardening is called ‘petrification’ and it happens when all the C02 absorbed throughout the hemp plants lifetime reacts to the mixture of lime which, ultimately, creates a hardened hempcrete that can be used as a building block. “The mix is purported to be a strong insulator, moisture balancing and biodegradable (when exposed to water), furthermore, it is said to be more sustainable than concrete and a carbon sink.” (Woods, Taylor, 2019) To elaborate, a big advantage of having a hemp building system would be the indoor-air-quality and comfort for all its occupants. A hemp building can regulate humidity and eradicate the potential for mould to form making it extraordinarily insulative. It also has thermal retention and captures carbon dioxide while growing, making it a mutually beneficial development process. Not only is hemp a carbon negative material but, it removes carbon from the atmosphere and stores it inside building material creating a full cycle of eco-friendly goodness.
To recap, Hempcrete is non-toxic, fireproof, pest resistant, mould resistant and extremely durable.
Oh, and did we mention Hempcrete is fireproof?
As the world traverses this tremendous period of uncertainty it is up to us, as not only consumers, but as people, to ensure the longevity of those implementing environmentally-friendly changes that will ultimately benefit us as a whole. Eco - alternatives have to become prioritised and campaigns need to be realigned in which to take mother nature into account.
Keep an eye out on Envirolite Concrete and follow their development process.
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