Hemp was among the first crops to be cultivated, and historically it ranks among the most widely cultivated annual crops. Today industrial hemp is enjoying a renaissance in many countries. It is increasingly recognized as a valuable, environment-friendly, bio-resource.
Selectively bred to minimize the THC (narcotic) content, industrial hemp is licensed and aided by the EU and grown increasingly for fibre and seed oil production. But Hemp has up to 50,000 product applications across a surprisingly wide range of industry sectors, automotive, textiles, paper/pulp, bio-plastics, for example.
The Hemp plant grows well in Ireland as trials by Hemp Ireland and Teagasc have demonstrated. In a broad range of climates and soil types hemp yields a rich abundance (circa. 8-12 tonnes per annum), of quality natural raw materials: fibre, shive, hurd, and seed (rich in edible proteins and essential oils).
Hemp Environment Benefits Hemp benefits the environment in several ways.The growing crop absorbs the greenhouse gas CO2, ‘sequestering’ it and reducing atmospheric pollution responsible for climate change. Hemp also provides a low-energy and ‘low-carbon’ alternative to products requiring more energy intensive processing and production.
Hemp requires much less chemical fertilizer, and no pesticides or herbicides to grow. Thus hemp supports biodiversity and a transition to organic farming methods. The deep roots of the plant draw nutrients upward, and irrigate the soil as they decompose following the harvest. The leaves also make a rich compost. In rotation with bio-fuel, grain or other crops, hemp can enhance yields.
Finally, hemp supports local and regional sustainable development, employment creation and eco-innovation.
Hemp has for centuries been used in construction and is today making a comeback, thanks largely to the work of ecological building pioneers in Ireland and overseas. In France a traditional hemp building method of combining hemp with a lime binder, to make solid walls and floors, has been revived to build hundreds of houses in recent years. Products such as ‘ Hempcrete’ and ‘Hemcrete’ are used in conjunction with timber frame in multi-storey buildings.
Industrial buildings, such as Adnam’s (UK) new brewery depot, showcase the opportunity for mainstream developers to boost energy-efficiency and dramatically reduce greenhouse gas emissions.
Natural building materials are also non-toxic and safer to work with. As we spend 90% of our lives indoors, indoor air quality is important. Hemp insulation helps create a warm comfortable interior environment. In Germany, the UK and elsewhere hemp building and insulation products have won numerous awards and commendations from technical and health experts.
In comparison with other insulation materials hemp has several performance advantages:
- Hemp is a durable long-lasting renewable material.
- Hemp insulation has a low thermal conductivity, or U-value, of 0.040 KW/m.
- Hemp absorbs and distributes moisture allowing the wall to breathe and thereby reducing humidity and condensation indoors.
In many tests, and when installed, the energy efficiency of hemp building and insulating materials surpasses expectations. Thermal conductivity is just one aspect of energy performance. Convection and radiation also matter. A material’s capacity to hold heat, deal with moisture and extreme cold helps determines real energy efficiency and your heating fuel bills.
All-round hemp is an excellent insulation material with a thermal performance that easily matches conventional synthetic insulation. The real advantages of hemp lie in the fact that it absorbs carbon from our atmosphere and requires far less energy in its production. It takes 1.84 tonnes of CO2 to make each tonne of dry hemp.
The more hemp we use the less CO2 in the atmosphere!