By Jean Lotus
A labor of love and a love of the labor involved, this book is a magnum opus by Irish hemp building pioneer Steve Allin, providing a comprehensive overview of 50 hemp projects worldwide.
This book straddles the space between a gorgeous coffee table architecture book and a practical how-to guide. Each chapter is stuffed with plenty of photos and details of 50 different hemp projects, large and small, built around the world. (The perfect gift for the natural-materials architect in your life!)
From hempcrete department stores, schools and luxury homes in Europe and Canada to the humblest dwelling for a widow in Nepal, each 3-4 page chapter provides the technical information, but also tells the story of the very human motivations behind each building.
Allin has a decades-long career in natural building since the late 1990s. He formed the International Hemp Building Association in 2009. He is also the author of Building with Hemp, published in 2006 and then reissued as a 2nd printing in 2012.
In fact, over the past 20 years, Allin himself was involved in the majority of these projects.
Builders were inspired by his workshops, Allin himself participated in building many of the structures featured.
Importantly for me, this book is vital to explain the gaps and pathways for hemp building materials in the US market. How do the Europeans build 6-story apartment buildings and department stores out of hempcrete and what can we learn from them?
The book gives us technical information for each project, including the designer/architects, the owners and where material was sourced.
I was going to pick three favorites, but the variety and ingenuity in these projects make them impossible to rank. Notable inspiration for American readers are the Marks & Spencer department store in Cheshire Oaks, England; the Harmless Home in Vancouver Island, BC and The Triangle (42 hempcrete units) in Swindon, UK.
Hempcrete in the United States has a long way to go. This fall (possibly October) we are awaiting the certification of hempcrete in the ICC’s International Residential Code. In 2025, US Hemp Building Foundation will have the opportunity to submit hempcrete for the International Commercial Code.
Meanwhile, the Biden administration and the US Department of Energy are looking at carbon-sequestering construction materials. It’s possible that building with these materials might generate carbon credits, or environmental tax breaks, or insurance discounts.
Hemp Buildings is both inspirational and aspirational for the US hemp building industry. There exist perhaps 70 hemp buildings in the United States right now – but this book shows us how hemp building materials can be employed throughout the built environment, resulting in healthy, natural homes and commercial buildings.
Jean Lotus is publisher of HempBuildMag.com. email@example.com
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Originally published September 3, 2022 on Hemp Building Mag