Hexagonal hempcrete “Hemple” built in Hawaii with a Haven Earth workshop. Photo courtesy Haven Earth, PMA

By Paul “River” Richardson, Haven Earth, PMA

With a massive surge in interest in hemp building in the United States, it has become apparent that the hemp building industry is set to take off. It is expected that the industrial hemp market is predicted to grow at a CAGR of 34% from $4.6 billion in 2019 to $26.6 billion by 2025. 

Pushing that growth forward is a consumer search for green building materials, particularly insulation. 

“The growing preference for eco-friendly products in thermal insulation, construction materials, fiberglass alternatives, and automotive products is expected to drive the market over the forecast period,” Grandview Research reported. 

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Aside from the obvious cultivation, and processing of hemp, one of the main challenges facing the burgeoning hemp-building industry is the slow-moving regulatory systems that permit new construction in counties across the United States. 

Planning departments approve projects based on standards that are heavily influenced by the mass-production construction industry and mega building material giants that influence and shape the building codes. Here in the United States, the hempcrete industry is still young and testing data is not yet available, unlike Europe where testing data is available based on decades of building with hemp.

In an effort to stimulate hemp building education and awareness in the United States, my company, Haven Earth PMA, has focused on offering creative solutions that allow people to experience the benefits of hemp building. We offer simplified designs that are small enough to navigate around regulatory roadblocks. 

Recent DIY projects enable others to get involved with “hemp” first hand, to build out their own healthy hemp structure. 

The DIY Hex Hemple was developed for a client in Hawaii where the regulations allowed for a structure under 120 sq. ft. to be built without approval.

The main goal was to create a design that would not only fly under the radar, but would meet the clients dream of creating co-living structures on their small community land co-op on the Island of Maui. The reason for choosing to make the structure a hexagonal shape was the client’s vision to highlight the versatility and possibilities of hemp whilst being simple enough to construct with basic construction knowledge. 

The structure consists of 6 equal wall panels that can be pre-assembled on a flat surface and stood up together to create and enclose the structure. Once walls were fixed together, roof rafters were easily assembled on top with a simple central wood hexagonal shaped support peak. 

Built up on wood piers above off-the-shelf concrete footings buried only a few inches into the earth, the simplified design allowed for all work to be carried out by hand without need for any heavy machinery. The client was able to frame the structure with a helper in a few days and Haven Earth followed up with a five-day workshop consisting of a small crew of eight to complete the hemping part for the walls.

The workshop set out to give a well-rounded experience where participants learned all about the amazing properties of this revolutionary building material and how to implement the design details in simple hands-on lessons. 

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Probably the most complicated part of the workshop was creating the movable formwork that would be used to form the hempcrete walls from. Each form board was cut from a half sheet of 3/4″ plywood, with one side of the board angle cut to mitre to the previous board creating a seamless container either side of the wall to encapsulate the wood frame within the hempcrete insulation material. 

Once completed, the hempcrete (hemplime) walls go through a slower process of calcification (curing) due to be a “living” material where approximately 1” either side of the wall dries per week. During this time the walls are kept out of direct sunlight and moisturized daily with water to allow a more consistent drying throughout the 8-1/2” thick walls. 

In the end, the outcome is a breathing structure that regulates the indoor environment and is super insulating, fire resistant, rot and mold resistant, pest resistant as well as beautiful and feels good. 

DIY, Hands-on hemping projects like these allow others to learn the knowledge of this amazing building material and take their new-found skills to go and build their own hemp structure on their own land. 

We are at a time when people are looking for alternate solutions to housing that are healthy, ecological and aesthetic all at the same time. Hemp offers a way to do this that simultaneously stimulates a renaissance in agriculture that can support the healing of our depleted and toxified soil, whilst giving farmers a way to pivot out of using highly toxic chemicals in their crops.

 Ultimately, it’s a win-win for all. You too can be part of the change we wish to see in the world. 

Inside view of the Hex Hemple. Photo Courtesy Haven Earth, PMA

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Originally published January 22, 2022 on Hemp Building Mag