Could hemp be the sustainable insulation material of the future?

8th September 2021

As the insecurity of the environment becomes increasingly clear, many people are starting to think more about how their decisions can have an impact – whether that be negative or positive. This shift in thinking is also being reflected in government policies and commercial innovations.

Last year, the UK government announced its Green Homes scheme, to contribute to the nation’s mission to become carbon neutral by 2030. At the time, Canex questioned how hemp could play a role in the sustainability-proofing of homes. Now, the US Department of Energy (DOE) is sponsoring a project to develop hemp fibre insulation products that are designed with both the environment and public health in mind.

According to Marijuana Moment, the agency awarded Tommy Gibbons, the COO of Hempitecture – an Idaho-based hemp insulation manufacturer – an annual stipend of $90,000 and as much as $200,000 to support research into their insulation product.

The DOE is particularly interested in the company’s HempWool® product – a bio-based material made from 92% hemp fibre, designed as an environmentally sustainable, non-toxic alternative to traditional insulation options.

Hempitecture’s HempWool® product is described as “the most sustainable, high-performing insulation material on the planet.”

Hempitecture COO, Tommy Gibbons told HempBuildMag: “The Department of Energy is interested in the decarbonisation potential of insulation and other building materials made from hemp fibres.”

With the help of the DOE sponsorship, Hempitecture “plans to conduct research and testing on new, proprietary blends of its insulation material to improve its insulation value and fire resistance” and “onshore insulation manufacturing using industrial hemp waste from American farmers,” according to a description of the DOE-backed project.

The description continues, “An emphasis on healthy and low carbon building materials has sparked a search for solutions from consumers and government to rebuild better infrastructure and reduce the massive footprint of the built environment.”

A trend of utilising hemp for construction

The project is part of the DOE’s Innovation Crossroads programme which was developed as a way to help fulfil the goal of expanding the use of clean energy and reducing carbon emissions, as set by the Biden administration.

Hempitecture is also a manufacturer of Hempcrete – a hemp-based, environmentally friendly and fireproof building material. Touted as a more eco-friendly and sustainable alternative to concrete, Hempcrete is increasingly being considered as a tool for improving the carbon footprint of the construction industry.

This latest move by the US Department of Energy appears to be backing what many have been saying for years: hemp can offer a sustainable alternative to many products, as well as a sound investment.

This is backed by the move of the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), which in April announced a $100,000 grant to Washington-based Earth Merchant to support the development of hemp-based bricks as an alternative to concrete blocks.

In the UK, hemp construction materials company, UK Hempcrete, is also manufacturing hempcrete products as a replacement for traditional concrete options.

More than being carbon-neutral, evidence shows that hempcrete and other hemp-based construction materials such as Hempitecture’s HempWool® have been found to actually absorb CO2.

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