Comparing Hempcrete To Other Building Materials

Comparing Hempcrete To Other Building Materials

 

Our homes are our hearts and the best place to come to after a long day. But did you know that our houses are constructed from materials which may pose a serious risk to our atmosphere? The construction industry produces an exceeding amount of carbon emissions due to the production of synthetic building materials as well as the energy consumed during the construction of our man-made environment. There is a highly growing need for greener methods of construction and use of building materials with fewer carbon emissions and friendlier for our environment.

 

Hempcrete: A Sustainable Way To Build Houses

One such sustainable and eco-friendly material which is gaining attention in the construction industry is hempcrete. This material is made by combining hemp hurd, lime binder and water to create a slurry mixture that is used in walls, roofs, and floors of buildings. It is water-proof, fire-proof, pest-resistant, and completely recyclable.

Moreover, hempcrete regulates the temperature and humidity of buildings as well as absorbs a large amount of carbon dioxide due to its breathable nature. Being so lightweight and versatile in nature, this material can be considered the ideal alternative to traditional building materials.

 

Hempcrete compared to Concrete

Concrete is a mixture of rock, cement, sand, and water. It is the most widely used manmade material in the world. For every person on the planet, an estimate of more than a cubic yard of concrete is produced per year.  Around 900 kg of carbon dioxide is emitted in the atmosphere for the fabrication of every ton of cement being used in concrete.

Cement is commonly made of calcium silicates. The process requires heating limestone and other ingredients at a temperature of 2,640 degree Fahrenheit. This heating is done by burning fossil fuels, which is the 3rd largest source of greenhouse gas pollution in the United States as per the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency.

Cement and concrete limit ground absorption of precipitation. This raises ambient temperature and reduces the growth of land, cutting off life in the underlying soil.

Concrete emits large amount carbon in the atmosphere. Hempcrete absorbs large amounts of carbon dioxide.  It is a porous material and has the ability to retain carbon dioxide and moisture in large quantities.

Being three times more resistant than concrete, hempcrete buildings are also earthquake resistant. The material is low-density and resistant to cracking under movement, unlike traditional concrete which has a high density and not resistant to cracks as well.

When considering their impacts on our world in conjunction with their functional requirements for construction, it is clear hempcrete is the better choice over concrete.

 

Hempcrete vs Concrete- Weight

Hempcrete is a lightweight building material weighing 1/7th of concrete. The typical strength of hempcrete is 1 MPa which is around 1/20th that of residential grade concrete. It is a low-density material and does not require extension joints; this is why it cannot be used to make foundation walls and requires framing.

JustBioFiber, a UK based construction company, claims sequestration of 130 kg per m³ built.

 

Hempcrete vs Brick

Brick is another building material which is used to construct buildings. Brick is a unit which is made of clay-bearing soil, sand and lime or concrete material.

Bricks can be of various types ranging from common mud bricks, sand-lime bricks, engineering bricks, concrete brick, fly ash bricks, hollow bricks and more. They are one of the oldest manufacturing building materials. They can provide shelter that is durable, comfortable, safe as well as attractive.

One of the advantages of brick is its uniform shape and size which makes the construction process easy and appealing. Moreover, handling bricks is easy as they are lightweight. They offer easy and cost effective transportation.

Enter hempcrete bricks.  They are the same size as traditional bricks and are just as light in weight. They are strong, light, breathable and very energy-efficient.

One of the disadvantages of bricks is that they absorb water which can result in dampness and breakage over time. Hempcrete is durable and resistant to water and gets stronger over time like a petrified stone.

Bricks are also not mold resistant. The dampening on walls can result in the molds, mites and insects (which is not the case in hempcrete).

 

Other Alternatives To Hempcrete

Beyond hempcrete, there are additional alternative materials that are being used in the construction industry worth reviewing and comparing.

 

Adobe

Adobe is one of the most versatile and oldest natural building materials. It is a combination of clay, sand, and dirt.

When compared to hempcrete, this material does not insulate very well as walls made of adobe need some means of insulation in the building.

 

Rammed Earth

Rammed Earth refers to a technique of constructing floors, foundations and walls with the help of natural materials like earth, chalk, lime and gravel. If properly constructed, rammed earth can endure for thousands of years.

One disadvantage of rammed walls over hempcrete is that it requires an additional source of insulation or energy in climates other than desert climate.

 

Straw Bale

Using bales of straw is a sustainable method of constructing natural buildings.  This typically includes wheat, rice, rye and oat straw as structural elements.

Two major problems of straw bale when compared with hempcrete are moisture and molds. If exposed to water, the compressed straw can expand by absorbing moisture. Damages to the wall can increase the likelihood of mold releasing potentially toxic spores into the wall cavities and into the air.