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Hempcrete May Soon Be Certified as a U.S. National Building Material

Wed February 23, 2022 - National Edition

A construction block made from hempcrete.
A construction block made from hempcrete.

The dream green building material for many building professionals may be one step closer to being certified as one of the United States' national building materials in the U.S. building codes.

Hemp Inc., one of the global leaders on the forefront of the industrial hemp industry, reported that hempcrete was submitted as an appendix in the International Residential Codes (IRC) by the US Hemp Building Foundation.

The International Code Council experts are set to evaluate the paperwork submitted in March 2022 and then again in September 2022. Once accepted, hempcrete will be an approved natural building material in the United States.

According to the news source, once hempcrete is approved or certified as a national building material, the material will be "accessible to the standard person to construct with" and "allow you to build with it without needing an alternative material variance."

Certification of hempcrete will ultimately help permitting departments gain more familiarity with the material which is new to many since legalized under the 2018 Farm Bill, especially since it has a big barrier. The barrier? Many building professionals aren't familiar with it or think it's a substitution for concrete or think it's something to get high on. Yes, it's a green dream to some but still unknown to others.

And then there are the states that make getting a permit for hemp a bit tricky. Since "no national guidelines, test methods or specifications for hempcrete exist" and building codes differ across the board, approval "depends on whether local officials embrace innovation".

The US Hemp Building Association has been trying to establish "best practices and rules for acceptance" by the IRC and many are optimistic that new hempcrete codes will spark a "groundswell of interest". This shouldn't be too hard with all the benefits hempcrete offers. The insulation material "resists mold, fire and pests" and practically lasts forever. Not to mention, it absorbs carbon.

One source noted that "hempcrete, the non-structural insulation made of hemp hurd (shiv) and lime binder, provides a superior insulation product when installed up to 1 ft. thick in wall assemblies. The material is vapor-permeable, thermally regulating, fire resistant and repels mold and pests. Hempcrete insulation is carbon negative due to the large amounts of carbon sequestered by the hemp plant via photosynthesis while growing."

The building industry is very "traditional" and doesn't see many "new" materials. Most of the materials used in the building industry have remained the same for years and those same materials have some negative environmental and health impacts. Hempcrete, on the other hand, is not only sustainable and green, it makes ecological and financial sense. It's favorable in many ways so when the IRC enshrines hempcrete as a certified natural building material later this year, the potential for the building industry could be huge.

To date, few farmers in this country grow hemp strictly for building purposes. It's mostly grown for CBD, bioplastics, food or even mulch. One generally doesn't see it grown specifically for hempcrete. And farmers need "reliable customers and economies of scale" and to be in close proximity to a processing center or they'll pay exorbitant prices for shipping. Builders that do use it now, generally can't get enough locally so they have to import it from overseas and the quality varies.

With the industrial hemp market growing exponentially, resources and contacts are invaluable. The industrial hemp market is expected to reach $12.01 billion by 2028 and is expected to expand at a compound annual growth rate (CAGR) of 16.2 percent from 2021 to 2028, per the most recent study by Grand View Research Inc.

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