A 2024 Comprehensive Look: Hempcrete vs Concrete

by | Mar 12, 2024

Written by Christine Tullio

As Co-Founder of Cannabis Tech, Christine passionately immerses herself in the cannabis industry. As an early adopter of this thriving market, she stays at the forefront of emerging technologies, bringing groundbreaking innovations to light and empowering her readers with valuable insights and inspiration.

Many have pondered the key aspects relating to hempcrete vs concrete. The answer may not be straightforward, as these materials possess distinct qualities for various applications. Nevertheless, hempcrete is emerging as a crucial building material for residences, commercial properties, and industrial edifices.

Hempcrete vs Concrete: Starting with Hemp

What is Hempcrete?

Hempcrete is a blend of hemp fibers, water, and a lime-based binder. Its unique properties make it suitable for a variety of construction industry applications. Primarily, it is used as an insulating material, effectively regulating indoor temperatures and maintaining a comfortable living environment throughout the year.

How is Hempcrete Made?

It starts with the hemp plant’s core, the shiv or hurd, providing the fibrous material. This hemp shiv is mixed with lime, acting as a binder that binds the fibers together, initiating a petrification process for a lightweight, carbon-sequestering material. Water is added to facilitate blending and the chemical reaction. The hempcrete mixture can be cast into molds, formed into blocks, or applied directly to construct walls using a “spray-on” method. Hempcrete is lighter than traditional concrete. Curing is vital for durability, involving drying to harden the lime and maximize strength.

Benefits of Hempcrete

Sustainable and Eco-Friendly

One of the biggest advantages of hempcrete vs. concrete is its sustainability. Hemp plants absorb large amounts of carbon dioxide during their growth, and this carbon remains trapped within the material after construction. This makes hempcrete a carbon-negative material, meaning it’s actively reducing carbon in the atmosphere. Additionally, hempcrete does not use fossil fuels in its production and can be recycled at the end of its lifespan. This makes it a highly eco-friendly option for building materials.

Insulating Properties

Hempcrete is an excellent insulator, with thermal conductivity significantly lower than traditional concrete. This means that buildings constructed using hempcrete will require less energy for heating and cooling, resulting in lower energy bills and reduced carbon emissions. Moreover, hempcrete’s breathable nature allows moisture to pass through, reducing the risk of mold and dampness in buildings.

Versatility and Flexibility

Hempcrete offers a great deal of versatility and flexibility during construction. It can be poured or sprayed into place, making it suitable for a wide range of building types and designs. Its lightweight nature also means it exerts less pressure on foundations, making it ideal for retrofitting older buildings.

Hempcrete can also be easily molded and shaped, allowing for unique architectural designs and intricate details to be incorporated into building structures. This makes it a popular choice among architects and builders looking for unconventional and sustainable building materials.

Health Benefits

Another significant advantage of hempcrete vs concrete is its health benefits. Unlike traditional concrete, which contains harmful chemicals such as silica, hempcrete is non-toxic and does not release harmful fumes or particles. This makes it a healthier option for both the environment and human health.

Fire Resistant

Hempcrete is also highly fire resistant, meaning it can slow down the spread of flames in case of a fire. This added safety feature makes it an attractive option for building structures prioritizing occupant safety.

Hemp houses could be greener, fire-resistant

Hempcrete Manufacturers

While hempcrete is a relatively new building material, several manufacturers have pioneered its use and development across the globe. Some of these manufacturers include:

Americhanvre

Americhanvre, a Pennsylvania-based hemp building material installer, actively stores carbon in homes’ walls using hemp materials to reduce carbon dioxide levels. They aim to enhance construction energy efficiency through green materials and sustainable design. Americhanvre’s hempcrete offers superior performance with thermal, acoustic, and fire-resistant properties.

Hemp Building Company

Based in Longmont, Colorado, Hemp Building Company offers eco-friendly materials, insulation, and contracting services. They introduced hempcrete in 2017, with cost-effective formulas and various installation methods like cast in place, spray application, and prefabricated blocks and panels. After hempcrete insulation, they apply hemp-lime plaster for a permeable finish. Their products include hempcrete, raw materials (hurd and fiber), and industrial hemp seed.

8th Fire Innovations

Renowned for building Alberta’s first hemp home and creating the world’s first portable hempcrete house. Dion, the founder, is recognized nationally and internationally for his humanitarian work and expertise in hemp technology. With 7 years in hempcrete construction and 11 years in hemp technology, Dion leads a team that offers consultation, contract services, and materials for hemp building projects in North America. Services include material supplies, precast building elements, extraction technology, hemp fiber management, hempcrete construction, and more.

UK Hempcrete

UK Hempcrete focuses on using hempcrete and other natural materials for sustainable homes, aiming for a “better-than-zero-carbon” impact. Headed by Alex Sparrow, a top UK Hempcrete adviser, the company is well-respected. Alex, a wealth of expertise, shares knowledge through various channels, promoting a greener building choice.

Hempitecture

Hempitecture combines hemp’s benefits with superior architecture for healthy, energy-efficient habitats. They use only bio-based, natural materials to replace toxic ones, ensuring a green home. Hempitecture promotes sustainable hempcrete construction, offering hemp-lime building systems, installations, equipment, training, and contracting services in Ketchum, Idaho. A public-benefit corporation, Hempitecture aims for a greener future.

IsoHemp

Founded in 2011 by Olivier Beghin and Jean-Baptiste de Mahieu, specializes in sustainable construction. Collaborating with Belgian hemp experts, they developed lime and hemp products. With a focus on short distances, natural materials, and eco-friendly practices, IsoHemp has grown significantly. Their hempcrete blocks are a core product, with over a million blocks produced annually. Based in Namur, Belgium, IsoHemp operates in 5 countries through a wide distribution network.

Hemp Block USA

Headed by two accomplished Aussies, Johan Tijssen and Glen Donoghoe, this American company evolved from Hempcrete Australia. Tijssen, with 30 years in construction, recognized the need for improved building materials to reduce environmental impact and carbon toll. The duo created the USA’s first carbon-negative load-bearing hempcrete block.

hempcrete vs concrete blocks

Hempcrete vs Concrete: Which is stronger?

When comparing the compressive strength of hempcrete vs concrete, concrete emerges as the stronger option. Owing to its high density, commercial concrete boasts a specific compressive strength of approximately 3000 psi.

As highlighted in a study by ScienceDirect, hempcrete exhibits a compressive strength ranging from 72.5 to 507.6 psi. This amounts to roughly 17% of the strength of regular concrete. Despite this, hempcrete can still offer respectable tensile strength.

Compressive strength indicates a material’s ability to withstand breaking under compression. Hempcrete’s relatively low compressive strength is attributed to its composition, featuring lightweight materials that render it about one-eighth the weight of concrete.

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Hempcrete vs Concrete: Gravel and Sand

While hempcrete can enhance tensile strength and reduce surface cracking when reinforced with fibers, it does not significantly bolster compressive strength. Concrete, in contrast, contains sand and aggregates which contribute to its high compressive force due to the density of these components. Taking an honest look at hempcrete vs. concrete, we must also consider concrete’s characteristics.

Benefits of Using Concrete

Concrete is a composite material made of aggregate (gravel and sand), water, and cement. The process involves mixing these components precisely to achieve strength and durability. Cement acts as a binder, forming a paste when mixed with water, then combined with aggregates in specific ratios. Through a hydration reaction, the mixture hardens into concrete over time. This curing process is essential for concrete’s strength and integrity, taking days or even weeks.

  • Exceptional strength
  • Durability
  • Longevity
  • Cost-effectiveness
  • Versatility in shaping
  • Energy-efficient thermal mass

Concrete vs hempcrete is preferred for construction due to its ability to withstand adverse weather conditions and the well-established global infrastructure for production and supply. This makes it readily available and affordable compared to newer alternatives like hempcrete.

According to Taylor Woods in a detailed article titled Hemp Mythbusters – Can hempcrete replace concrete, “hempcrete just doesn’t offer the same critical performance as standard concrete nor is it cost competitive. The cost part is a primary issue both from the concrete producers side of minimizing production costs and the opportunity cost to farmers. In the case of the farmer, all of the costs would need to be shifted before it makes any sense and once transport is factored in, the revenue from hemp for hempcrete is not worth the amount of effort.”

Hempcrete vs Concrete: How They Stack Up

When comparing hempcrete vs concrete, it’s essential to weigh their respective advantages and disadvantages within the context of specific construction needs. Concrete, with its exceptional strength, durability, and versatility, remains the preferred choice for structures requiring high compressive strength and exposure to harsh environments. It’s cost-effective, widely available, and has an established method of production and application, making it indispensable for traditional construction projects.

On the contrary, hempcrete offers a sustainable alternative, emphasizing environmental benefits such as carbon sequestration, lower energy footprint, and using renewable resources. Its excellent thermal and acoustic insulation properties make it ideal for residential buildings, improving energy efficiency and living comfort. However, hempcrete’s lower compressive strength and longer curing time highlight its limitations for structural applications compared to concrete. Ultimately, the choice between hempcrete vs concrete depends on the specific requirements of the construction project, including considerations of sustainability, structural needs, and cost. 

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