Building with Hemp

By Steve Graham, Networx

Hemp is an eco-friendly and durable alternative to plywood, drywall and other building materials. However, don’t expect to find hemp products alongside pine two-by-fours and gypsum board on your next trip to the American big-box store. Though hemp construction materials are gaining popularity in Europe, drug laws in the U.S. prevent industrial hemp cultivation. Still, imported hemp construction materials are gradually becoming more widespread.

Why Hemp

Hemp is a fast-growing, sustainable crop. It is relatively easy to grow organically without herbicides or pesticides. It is considered one of the most productive fibers, generating up to 25 tons of construction-grade hurd fiber per acre.

Some consider hemp to have been among the first domesticated crops, dating back at least 10,000 years. Since then, it has been used in thousands of products including food, fiber, paper and, increasingly, construction materials.

How to Use Hemp

Hemp concrete is a mix of hemp hurd fiber, lime and water that can perform as a light, mildew-and flame-resistant, insulating building material for interior or exterior walls. It is perhaps the most common hemp building material, and has been widely used in Europe for many years, though it has only recently been used in the U.S.

The Building Research Establishment in England compared hempcrete homes with traditional brick construction, and found the hempcrete construction process used less energy and created less waste. Meanwhile, the completed home takes less fuel to heat, but offers comparable water-tightness and durability, with walls that might be expected to last an estimated 800 years. According to the study, the main problem with the hempcrete was acoustic: it did not block sound as well as traditional construction.

Of course, hemp’s advantages can be overstated. It is widely described as carbon-neutral and seven times stronger than concrete. However, the manufacturers of Hempcrete, a leading hemp concrete brand, insist it is not stronger than concrete, and should not be used in a structural capacity. Their product is only approved for use above ground and alongside lumber or other framing. As for the carbon claim, it is based on the idea that hemp cultivation traps more carbon than lime production generates. Of course, the carbon equation is much more complicated, particularly in the U.S., where all hemp is imported, adding carbon used for transport.

The other major commercial hemp construction products are hempboard, a medium-density fiberboard, and hemp insulation batts.

Other proposed or proven hemp construction materials include:

• Researchers at the University of North Carolina are developing a composite lumber product using hemp fibers and recycled plastic bottles. Strong hemp fibers make it lighter and stronger than standard composite lumber, and the plastic makes it more water- and pest-resistant than regular lumber, according to the researchers.

• A Canadian company has won national agriculture awards for its Enviroshake roofing material. It mimics cedar shakes, but is made with 95 percent recycled materials, including scrap leftover hemp fibers. It also carries a lifetime warranty and is reportedly more resistant to mold, fire, insects and mildew than shingles.

• An Australian company is developing hemp mud bricks.

Why It’s So Expensive

For now, hemp building materials are more expensive and more carbon-intensive because they must be imported. Industrial hemp cannot be grown in the U.S.

Despite the fact that industrial hemp has virtually no THC and therefore none of the recreational or medicinal value of marijuana, the Drug Enforcement Administration bars the cultivation of any cannabis in the U.S.

The Lakota Sioux at Pine Ridge Reservation in South Dakota grow industrial hemp, but the reservation is considered a sovereign nation and despite that, the DEA has not made it easy for them. Several states have also legalized industrial hemp, but have not started growing the crop in deference to the DEA.

Still, the ban did not stop the construction of the first U.S. Hempcrete home in 2010, and it will not stop the spread of hemp construction materials in the U.S. and around the world.

Image: K_Man / stock.xchng

The Eco-Friendly Building Method You’ve Never Heard Of
How to Find Sustainable Wood Sources
What is Slow Architecture?


W. C
W. C2 months ago


William C
William C2 months ago

Thank you.

Howard Crosse
Howard Crosse4 years ago

I live in the UK where hemp products are freely available. I suffer from psoriasis and find hemp cream the only thing that helps. I can understand the concerns regarding the association with illegal drugs but hemp creams and oils contain such very low concentrations that the benefits surely far outweigh the risks, this had certainly been the case in quite a few other countries.

Patrique Veille
Patrique Veille4 years ago

For companies that distribute processed hemp material for hempcrete in the USA and more information about hemp for grain and fiber can be found on the:

Hemp Traders ( - West Coast, USA hemp distribution and sale),
American Hemp ( - East Coast, USA hemp distribution and sale),
Hemp Industries Association website (,
Nutiva company website ( - hemp food),
Manitoba Harvest company website ( - hemp food), or
Vote Hemp website (

More states continue to introduce legislation to legalize industrial hemp cultivation. It is already legal to import processed hemp into the USA, but illegal to grow. The hemp industry could be viable in the mass production and sale of hemp fiber, hurd (core), dust, and grain for the food (grain and oil), building materials (hempcrete, insulation, fiberboard, etc.) animal bedding (equine/horse, guinea pig, poultry, etc.), clothing, bioplastics, etc. industries.

Sonny Honrado
Sonny Honrado4 years ago

Thanks for the ideas.

Cancer C.
Hemp Oil5 years ago

Hello everyone and how we doing, i would like to inform most serious cancer patients that i have a source to cure different kind of cancer with medical grade hemp oil because the hemp oil only will not cure cancer without RSO treatment control and no fees are requested before meeting my source. for further details. come to

Abbe A.
Azaima A6 years ago

Just waiting for the day when hemp takes its rightful place again in our country.

Roopak Vaidya
Roopak Vaidya6 years ago

Thank you.

Ben G.
Ben G6 years ago

I live in Guelph, Ontario (Canada). One block from my apartment is a store called "Hempire" that sells all things hemp, from clothing to cosmetics.

There is also a Canadian company that made news a couple of years ago with their "Hemp Car" ( that drove from coast to coast using hemp oil as a fuel (biodeisel).

Granted, hemp is a member of the cannabis family, but with no THC. So are hops. a main ingredient in beer.

This is totally political with no foundation in science.

Prochi T.
Prochi T6 years ago

Thank you.