Over the last year, hemp has increased significantly in popularity, being used in various household products, skin care products, medicines, animal sedation, and now – construction. CBD, a natural derivative of the hemp, or the cannabis plant, has been mixed into medical treatments for those with severe illnesses and diseases; lotions for those with arthritis or migraines; and medications for those with anxiety. There have been a multitude of ways in which hemp has been used in the cosmetic and medical variety, now it moves into the construction industry.
In 2022, an article regarding an international project in Zimbabwe was published about the natural use of hemp to construct buildings. After receiving $65 million from Nairobi, a Kenya-based financial institution, the government of Zimbabwe created an eco-friendly housing project. The houses would be constructed out of hempcrete, precast concrete slab, reclaimed steel, and ferrock, an environmentally friendly steel alternative. Nairobi focuses on the development of housing and real estate in Africa.
Last year, Zimbabwe boosted its emission reduction efforts from 35% to 40%, curbing a roughly estimated 45 million tons across the entire country. Zimbabwe has a very high cost rate for construction, so unfortunately many citizens and families live within plastic, mud, or clay dwellings on the outskirts of cities. These families have been promised supportive housing, but there are still 1.5 million on the waitlist, some for even over a decade! This low-cost, highly efficient construction alternative can hopefully decrease that number significantly.
Moving northeast across the globe, Sweden is on track to create the world’s largest hemp project. Sweden’s hemp distribution company, Ekolution AB has developed building insulation made from hemp fibers. Partnering with the real estate developer NREP in north Stockholm, the two are working on distributing and installing these hemp fiber panels in high-tech logistics centers. The insulation is also combined with solar energy infrastructure, supporting the many production operations that are to occur at these centers.
“It’s a milestone for the whole hemp industry and in particular hemp building materials. The environmental impact is immediate and this will be the first of many state-of-the-art logistics facilities,” stated CEO and founder of Malmö -based Ekolution, Remi Loren.
Not only are these new building materials sustainable and energy efficient, they also contribute to the many other subtopics within climate change. The current facility under construction will be the first logistics center to achieve 100% carbon neutrality throughout its lifespan. It’s also a milestone development within the commercial construction industry – hempcrete and hemp fibers now have the potential to be further implemented into the construction sector. The installed solar system is to have long-life active solar cells, and be able to generate enough energy to power the 80,000 sq.m. logistics park; along with internal operations such as offices, refrigerators, and temperate zones. The collected solar energy that is not used within the working day will be redirected back into the power grid for the company to eventually reuse.
Ekolution’s hemp fiber installation development is now being distributed by Optimera, Sweden’s largest building materials and timber supply company. They plan on pursuing deals with pan-European distributors, nations within or associated with the European Union.