Hempcrete as Insulation for Large Scale Projects

Hello Team - Are there hempcrete insulation products available for large scale projects? I see it referenced in more than a few places as a net carbon sequestering option: Architecture 2030 include it in their Carbon Smart Materials Palette: INSULATION – Carbon Smart Materials Palette and RMI included it in their recent ‘Reducing Embodied Carbon in Buildings Low-Cost, High-Value Opportunities’ report… but I don’t see it in the market.

The ASTM D37 committee is working on the rating/testing of Hempcrete material currently.The approach is ASTM C518. The effort is stalled to some degree pending standardization of hemp materials themselves.

Hi Aaron. Good question. From what I know, there are a handful of relatively new hempcrete companies with the potential to eventually scale up their hempcrete production to supply larger projects. However, I don’t know of any that can do it just yet. To name a few, Just BioFiber (Canada), Calmura Wall Systems (Canada), Sativa Building Systems (United States) and IsoHemp (Belgium).

There are some hemp batt products that I believe would have the quantities required for large projects, including Hemptecture’s HempWool (United States) and Nature Fibres’ Natur-Chanv/Hemp insulation (Canadian). These tend to have lower carbon footprints than hempcrete since they don’t use lime, but that can depend on the processing. It also depends what properties you’re looking for, especially in terms of structural and environmental control properties.

Existing companies and startups developing these products need R&D funding, investment and market demand, in tandem. The majority of innovations in minimally-processed, bio-based materials (aka natural building materials) tend to occur in the low-rise housing sector and are adopted by the brave and eager trailblazers until they receive enough testing, enough acceptance from stakeholders (insurance, banks, building inspectors, codes, builders, suppliers, engineers, architects, consumers, etc.), and enough market demand to be scaled up. Getting to this stage involves many factors, but capital investment has been a challenging barrier from what I know. Natural building materials have historically had very little financing to work with, collectively. Though, the tide has started to turn in the past couple of years with increase of the awareness and valuing of embodied carbon. Bio-based materials are clear winners on the embodied carbon metric due to their biogenic carbon storage and often low energy requirements for processing. Pre-production capital costs are significant for any new building product and breaking into a market dominated by a relative few very well-established companies can be daunting, if not for the innovators, then surely for the investors. I want to note, I’m not trying to pit any group against another here. I’m just sharing the facts as I currently understand them. I would love to see partnership and collaboration between established manufacturers and these new natural material products, if done authentically and ethically. They are well-poised to slingshot these materials into wide adoption.

Sorry if this was a much larger answer (re: rant) than you were expecting, Aaron. But, I hope it was more informative than just “not yet”.

And, for those more wise than myself on these topics, please, feel free to chime in.