Hemp Sweet Hemp: Building a Healthier Home with Hempcrete
with Anthony Néron, DuChanvre
Here in U.S., stories that include pot in the walls generally don’t have a positive outcome. That’s not the case if you live in France where people are quite familiar with Hempcrete, and its many benefits.
It didn’t take a lot more than the simple concept of living in a hemp nest to sell me on Hempcrete. As many of us cannabis lovers evolve — the more we crave nature in every aspect of our lives. But the real benefit here: a safer, healthier home.
I met Anthony Néron, founder of DuChanvre, a family business based in Quebec at the ‘Luxury Meets Cannabis Conference’ in NYC. Anthony combines Hempcrete with a lime plaster finish to create homes that are indestructible and beautiful inside and out. Anthony’s mission: bring art and integrity to construction.
Hempcrete or Hemplime is a bio-composite material made of hemp hurds (shives) mixed with a lime-based binder. Together they yield lightweight, cement-like blocks ideal for insulating walls, and most often paired with wood stud framing. Hempcrete is fitting for most climates as it combines insulation and thermal mass - eight Hempcrete blocks weigh about the same as one of its concrete siblings.
ON WHAT MAKES A HEMPCRETE LIME PLASTER HOME SO UNIQUE
Anthony Néron: Hempcrete is the most durable insulation material available. Lime plaster is the finish that’s applied directly on the hempcrete to create a wall system that can resist fire, humidity, vermin, compression, and even earthquakes, because it’s so fibrous. It’s a great option for people living in California. It's not going to decay, lose color or fade out. It's not going to dust off or peel off. You do a lime plaster once in your life.
It’s reminiscent of a pre-war home or building built before the 1930’s. Those homes and buildings are considered to be of the highest quality, because during those times, toxic materials did not exist.
Now hemp and lime together is an insulation with high flexibility, and therefore not a load-bearing material. Not hard like concrete or as strong as stone, but within proper framing it is considered as solid and durable as a stone wall.
If you punch the wall, you will break your bones.
Also, Hempcrete and lime plasters are classified as fireproof and can resist heat up to 1,800 degrees.
Need more convincing? Fireplaces are built with lime.
ON THE HEALTH BENEFITS
AN: Because these are natural materials (lime and hemp), they are noble materials. They come from nature and are totally balanced. It's already been exposed to the elements. So, the electric charge of the materials is negative. That means it's neutral to the human energy field and doesn't interfere with our electric balance.
Plastic (traditional insulation) is electrostatic. So, what contains plastic becomes positively charged. When your walls are covered with conventional paint that contains acrylic or synthetic materials, what happens is that your environment becomes electrostatic. It's an environment that the particles would attract each other and likely create more dust.
And if you have hot or cool air that is pushed through a metal conduct, that creates positive electric charge and particles. For sensitive people it can cause problems.
The place where you spend most of your time should be in harmony with your choices and values.
Why eat organic if you live synthetic?
If you want to buy fair trade, then choose a clean environment and surround yourself with natural materials.
ON HEAT AND ENERGY EFFICIENCY
AN: Hempcrete houses are much more efficient. They perform in heat and cold. That's the purpose of Hempcrete insulation. There’s a thermal reflection factor meaning it reflects temperature — radiating warmth in the winter and cool in the summer.
Hemp has long been used in the building industry as a fiber in the coatings, and plasters, as a reinforcement. But it wasn’t until the 1980’s in France that Hempcrete was created. In many ways, this is a return to artful, quality construction. It's slow building and it's quality building.
ON FINDING PASSION FOR HEMP
AN: Hemp homes were a rustic kind of a design, leaning toward hippie. As soon as I saw it, I needed to know more. My mother was an interior designer, so I am aware of design and I could hear her voice in my head as I was looking at it. She taught me her version of being aware of how things are properly done. To create beauty and precision. I grew up in that and so my immediate reaction was to be a part of the future solution.
When I was younger, I was very creative, active, moving fast, moving on. I had to feel like I was using my power and my skills. And so, being introduced to the first Hempcrete house in Canada just triggered everything. Through apprenticeship, I learned how to use Hempcrete.
I learned about plasters from other craftsmen and I blended it with the Hempcrete to create something more complete and beautiful. If this was going to be a new way to build houses, we needed it to be more standard to fit in the market. It couldn't be too rustic. It had to be unique and precise.
This evolved into my craft.
For myself and my family, our deepest goals are extending our values into our everyday action, whether it’s buying organic, fair trade, consumption. We wanted to extend those values we hold dear to construction and housing.
ON SOURCING HEMP
AN: We source it most of the time from Europe, some from France, some from Belgium, or it could come from Switzerland. But it's mostly coming from France or Belgium. That's where the industry is the biggest.
ON GAINING TRACTION
AN: Well, the good news is that Hempcrete is rapidly growing in popularity and use. The bad news is that options may not be on the forefront or easy to find. You have to look and ask for it. It's a matter of education. These philosophies in construction will become more and more available over time.
But to me, I'm already living in the future.
These are houses that are built and last for hundreds of years. If you have a long-term vision, its something to go for. You're not going to have to make over in 30 years from now. It takes a little more time than conventional homes to do, but it lasts much longer.
ON PRICING AND TIMELINES
AN: The budget is 30% higher than conventional homes. So, a little more costly and a little slower because there are drying periods. You have to compare it to houses that are artisan made, and in many ways, our homes are really handmade. Everything is custom. We have custom lime plaster that they're looking for certain colors, certain textures. So, it's different for every client. We are usually finishing a 2,000 square foot house within one year of work.
In Europe, some lime homes are a thousand years old and still beautiful, still comfortable. We are bringing back tradition in a modern way.
How much plastic is in my walls?
— Highly Epiphanies