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Hempcrete vs. Concrete

March 3, 2021
Hemp Co. Admin

With how much we talk about it, we’re sure you’ve heard of Hempcrete by now!  It’s great to see more awareness being spread about this incredible building material that we’re starting to see more of.  But it’s sudden presence is bound to raise many questions!

Before you start planning your dream house, we want to answer a few common enquiries people often have about Hempcrete and how it stacks up against concrete.  

Why should we choose Hempcrete over concrete for future homes?  What are the biggest benefits of Hempcrete?  Are there any disadvantages or anywhere that Hempcrete can’t be used?  

These are all great questions!  And instead of continuing to introduce this weeks topic, let’s just dive right in.

What is Hempcrete?

Hempcrete is an eco-friendly building material made with Hemp, used in construction by various civilizations throughout history.  The bast fibre of hemp is often used for clothing; Hemp building materials are made with the inner core – or the hurd.  Known for its superior properties for home development, Hempcrete is becoming a popular choice for the eco-conscious new home builder looking for a long-lasting, sustainable material for their property.  

How is Hempcrete Made?

Hempcrete is made by mixing Hemp Hurd (broken down through processing) with a binding agent and water.  Hempcrete can be easily laid to form a wide range of structures, most often made with completely natural materials – most notably houses.  We process our Hemp Hurd through our very own Australian Hemp Fibre Processing Facility right here in Margaret River, WA.  Once the hurd has been separated from the fibre, we can use the hurd, which present like wood chips, in our completely natural Hemp housing projects.

Hempcrete House In Construction

What is Hempcrete Made Of?

Hempcrete can be made from a range of materials.  Most commonly, a lime binder and water is added to a mixer with Hemp Hurd.  Other ingredients that can be used in addition to the lime binding agent when time constraints involved are;

  • Hydraulic binders
  • Clay
  • Cement (Occasionally, not common practise or recommended)
  • Pozzolanic binder (Occasionally, not common practice or recommended)

At our sibling company Hemp Homes Australia, we use a 100% natural mixture of Hemp, Lime (from limestone) and water to make our Hemp Houses in Western Australia!

Benefits of Hempcrete

  • Breathable, therefore also mould-resistant. 
  • High Thermal Insulation
  • Fireproof up to (x) degrees
  • Sequesters Carbon Dioxide over its life
  • Reusable and breaks down naturally at end of life.  Won’t end up polluting landfill
  • Antibacterial

And so much more!

What is Concrete?

Despite what many would imagine, Concrete is a relatively new building material compared to Hempcrete blends.  It is far less environmentally friendly, and cannot be disposed of in landfill due to the toxic chemicals required to build with it.  Concrete is most commonly made with water, limestone, sand, and even stone.  Once mixed, it is heated at 1450 degrees celsius and must remain at high temperatures until it is poured on the desired site. 

There is a wide array of health risks associated with working with concrete (or cement) due to the level of exposure to toxic chemicals and harsh ingredients.  From physical to mental illnesses, concrete has wreaked havoc on a generation of builders.

Hempcrete vs Concrete

When comparing the two building materials, it’s important to keep the different case uses in mind.  As the field currently stands, we cannot accurately compare the two for building large structures due to the lack of research and building larger, hemp-reinforced commercial structures.  However, what we can do is compare the two in building houses.

Houses made with concrete have a much shorter lifecycle than Hempcrete, and concrete lacks the reusability offerings that hemp has.  Immediately, this makes Hempcrete the more attractive option for anybody looking for long-lived housing that can be repurposed or disposed of – if the situation required such actions.  Most notably, there is a Hempcrete building in Japan that has been standing for over 300 years.  Could you find a concrete house that’s been standing for 300 years?  We don’t think so!  

When it comes to the environmentally-friendliness of Hempcrete vs concrete, Hempcrete will once again present as the most desirable option.  Not only did your Hemp home sequester carbon dioxide from the atmosphere during growth, but it continues to absorb roughly 108kg/m³ of Hemp+lime material over its lifetime once the structure has been made. It locks this carbon in for life, and when the material breaks down in the environment, it returns the carbon dioxide to the soil sediment – back to where it belongs!

In terms of the health benefits of Hempcrete up against concrete, it’s another no-brainer.  Hemp materials breathe, which means that moisture isn’t being trapped and allowed to mould throughout the house’s lifetime – unlike concrete.  Once concrete sets, moisture is trapped, and it can often cause mould.  Mould in homes is often responsible for allergies and illness.  Hempcrete is hypoallergenic, so those with allergies will breathe much easier knowing that their Hempcrete home is going to keep them healthy, happy, and in high spirits.

Wrap-Up

So that’s it, folks!  Some of the most pressing questions about Hempcrete – answered.  We hope this encompassed the topic well, and answered any queries you might have about our favourite building material.  If you’re considering building your home with hemp, please get in touch with Australian Hemp Masonary if you’re on the East Coast of Australia and reach out to us or Hemp Homes Australia if you’re on the West!

If you have any more questions, please drop a comment and let us know so we can get back to you.

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