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By Sarah Derouin
Hemp-based construction companies have been knocking on the door of events like San Francisco’s Greenbuild Expo for years. But this year, three companies presented their products and networked with the many designers, builders, architects, engineers and city officials that attended.
During the expo, Chicago-based US Heritage Group, Saint Luis-based Tiger Fiber, and Hempwood, from Murray, KY, got an opportunity to showcase the serious benefits of hemp-based construction materials.
The Greenbuild International Conference + Expo held at Moscone Center between Nov. 1-2 drew leaders in green building materials, social justice, and environmental health. Green building professionals gathered in person and online to learn more about solutions to improve resilience, sustainability, and quality of life in our built environment.
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Introducing (and Reintroducing) Hemp to the Greenbuild Community
Although some companies have been at the Expo in the past, the 2022 event seemed to have a different feel than years past. Tai Olson, of US Heritage Group told HempBuild Mag that the company attended Greenbuild three times in the past, but this year was the first time back after a hiatus.
“We had difficulty generating significant real interest in hemp and lime [in past years] so long as there were material sourcing and permitting issues, but with the changes to the hemp supply chain and IRC (International Residential Code) approvals we felt it was time to reintroduce the building system to the green building industry,” Olson said in an email interview.
A few years made a big difference in the acceptance of hemp products.
“For the first time, I didn’t have to answer the question ‘Can I smoke it?’ for every other person I spoke to,” Olson added. “The fact that people weren’t shocked by the idea of hemp building products was very encouraging and showed the normalization of hemp has come a long way,” he added. “It seemed like most attendees were more interested in the properties and performance of the material than the fact that it was made out of hemp,” said Olson.
Midwest Hemp Council
James Forbes, co-founder of Tiger Fiber, said he noticed that “less than one out of 100 professionals in sustainable construction know that industrial hemp can be used as a building material at all.”
However, once booth staffers talked with attendees, “they are incredibly impressed by hempcrete’s R-value per inch, fire resistance, mold resistance, and most importantly its ability to store and release thermal mass because it creates a lower draw on heating/cooling consumption,” Forbes said in an email.
Hemp offers the construction industry fresh ideas, Forbes said.
“There is an enormous demand globally for localized, carbon-negative, sustainable building materials that not only achieve ESG and Carbon initiatives but also have true mechanical and environmental performance characteristics to make a net positive impact on climate change.”
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Sativa Building Systems
Embracing Hemp in Green Construction
“The significance of hemp being recognized in the Green building community is that now they know hemp-based building materials are just not an idea but a reality that is making real change in the way we build,” says Alyssa Trombetti, of HempWood.
“Designers and architects are constantly searching for innovative products — often at trade shows — so, it is important to be there to present ourselves as an opportunity,” Trombetti added.
HempWood flooring has been incorporated in showrooms and retail spaces as flooring projects with BMW (including flooring and in production of the iX), Target, Chipotle and the Project PA Hemp Home, and is being sold in flooring stores across the United States.
That shows that the design community has readily accepted hemp without prejudice, Trombetti believes. “Many designers and architects were interested in implementing HempWood into their projects, which is very promising not only for our products but for hemp-based materials in general.”
Expanding beyond the hemp ecosystem
US Heritage’s Olson agreed, adding that while hempcrete is becoming more of a household name, other hemp products might need to be introduced more widely to new audiences.
“Most people in the hemp industry already know each other but are relatively unknown outside of the hemp community,” he said.
“We all need to expand our exposure, with hemp clothing companies attending clothing trade shows, hemp food companies attending food trade shows, hemp plastic companies attending plastic trade shows,” he said.
The Greenbuild audience was ready for exposure to hemp building products, organizers said.
“At Greenbuild, “Everyone from the building lifecycle comes together to connect on our shared sustainability goals,” Nick Vener, marketing manager for the Greenbuild Conference + Expo said in an email.
“From the architect planning a project, to the construction team on the ground building, to the material suppliers, to the end users tasked with maintaining safe and sustainable sites [are] able to sit around a table and share best practices with each other.
“We expect to see an increase in the adoption of hemp materials in the green building industry as well as more hemp-focused building companies on the Greenbuild Expo Floor in the coming years,” Vener added.
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Originally published November 17, 2022 on Hemp Building Mag