Lumber, steel, and concrete prices have soared over the past year, hitting the building industry hard. But some builders point to hemp as a lower-cost alternative.
While hemp contains cannabis, it has a much lower concentration of THC than marijuana and so is not used as a recreational drug that gets its users high. Hemp has long been used as a textile, a paper, and even a food source, and CBD oils are currently marketed for many health uses. Hemp also has been used as a biofuel.
Some in the construction industry believe hemp could be an asset in lowering costs and building more sustainably. Hemp can be used as a primary material for numerous building materials, such as flooring, roofs, walls, cabinets, insulation, shingles, brick, or blockwork, they say. Hemp adobe can be made to be just as strong as concrete and used in load-bearing walls, foundations, and floors.
Industry sources say it has also proven to be a more sustainable product than lumber. To renew lumber takes 40 years, but to renew hemp takes just 90 days, Think Realty reports about its growing use in construction. Hemp grows much like bamboo. It’s also resistant to mold and resistant and has proven to be a great insulator, pest resistant, and fire retardant.
But hemp’s reputation has hurt it. It was grouped with marijuana as a drug, so growing it was illegal in the U.S., Think Realty reports. In 2018, the Agriculture Improvement Act distinguished hemp from marijuana and made it legal nationwide.
Its use is still uncommon in the construction world. But that could change, particularly as building material costs soar and builders look for alternatives.
“Within the next few years, you will begin to see hemp homes (there are about 50 in the U.S. right now) and hemp alternatives for lumber, concrete, and steel,” Steve Streetman, a real estate consultant, writes for Think Realty. “When a product is better, cheaper, and faster, as well as far more environmentally friendly, it can’t be held down for long now that it’s legal and the rules for growing it have been developed.”