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America’s First Hemp House Pulls CO2 From the Air

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Hemp is making a major comeback around the world. In the U.S., five states have legalized the recreational use of cannabis and hemp-based building materials are now gaining popularity.

Photo credit: Push Design

Photo credit: Push Design

The first house built in the U.S. with hemcrete was constructed in Asheville, North Carolina and the 3,400 square foot Push House boasts a number of eco-friendly features.

To create a solid—yet breathable—wall system, hemp hurds were mixed with lime and water on-site an poured in-between the exterior supporting studs in lift.

Photo credit: Push Design

As USA Today notes, hempcrete is actually less like concrete and more like infill straw bale, as it is non-structural. The insulating quality is r-2.5 per inch and it has the unique ability to capture airborne pollutants over time—absorbing carbon when it is grown and in place.

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In addition, the material’s high thermal mass helps keep a steady interior temperature, rather than allowing it to fluctuate.

Photo credit: Push Design

Photo credit: Push Design

The interior walls of this gorgeous, eco-friendly house are made from Purepanel, a unique product made from recycled paper. It consists of a rigid skin with a corrugated paper core, similar to cardboard. (Below).

Photo credit: Push Design

Photo credit: Push Design

As CNN reports, the house also features 30 salvaged window frames that have been fitted with high tech glass. They were placed to allow the most daylighting without overheating the space. An open floor plans also allows the light to pervade deep into the home.

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That’s not all: The energy-efficient wall system is coupled with a super efficient 21 SEER air-based heat pump to effectively heat and cool the home, reducing utility costs and also the need for expensive equipment. With these installments this home ends up costing a respectable $133 per square foot to build.

Photo credit: Push Design

Photo credit: Push Design

Some compromises were made, such as introducing petroleum-based foam products into the ceiling and foundation. However, the house is a stellar example of how health, energy and design can co-exist in sync.

Photo credit: Push Design

Photo credit: Push Design

The architect is looking forward to constructing similar, smaller homes in the future once he gets through the learning curve of using Hemcrete. Admirably, he says from here on out he will only build houses safe enough for his daughter to live in; we applaud that.

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Hedges, 2019 © Hugh Hayden. All photos courtesy of Lisson Gallery

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"Faced with global warming, rising sea levels, and the climate-related extremes they intensify, the question is no longer whether some communities will retreat—moving people and assets out of harm's way—but why, where, when, and how they will retreat," the study begins.

The researchers suggest that it is time to rethink retreat, which is often seen as a last resort and a sign of weakness. Instead, it should be seen as the smart option and an opportunity to build new communities.

"We propose a reconceptualization of retreat as a suite of adaptation options that are both strategic and managed," the paper states. "Strategy integrates retreat into long-term development goals and identifies why retreat should occur and, in doing so, influences where and when."

The billions of dollars spent to rebuild the Jersey Shore and to create dunes to protect from future storms after Superstorm Sandy in 2012 may be a waste if sea level rise inundates the entire coastline.

"There's a definite rhetoric of, 'We're going to build it back better. We're going to win. We're going to beat this. Something technological is going to come and it's going to save us,'" said A.R. Siders, an assistant professor with the disaster research center at the University of Delaware and lead author of the paper, to the New York Times. "It's like, let's step back and think for a minute. You're in a fight with the ocean. You're fighting to hold the ocean in place. Maybe that's not the battle we want to pick."

Rethinking retreat could make it a strategic, efficient, and equitable way to adapt to the climate crisis, the study says.

Dr. Siders pointed out that it has happened before. She noted that in the 1970s, the small town of Soldiers Grove, Wisconsin moved itself out of the flood plain after one too many floods. The community found and reoriented the business district to take advantage of highway traffic and powered it entirely with solar energy, as the New York Times reported.

That's an important lesson now that rising sea levels pose a catastrophic risk around the world. Nearly 75 percent of the world's cities are along shorelines. In the U.S. alone coastline communities make up nearly 40 percent of the population— more than 123 million people, which is why Siders and her research team are so forthright about the urgency and the complexities of their findings, according to Harvard Magazine.

Some of those complexities include, coordinating moves across city, state or even international lines; cultural and social considerations like the importance of burial grounds or ancestral lands; reparations for losses or damage to historic practices; long-term social and psychological consequences; financial incentives that often contradict environmental imperatives; and the critical importance of managing retreat in a way that protects vulnerable and poor populations and that doesn't exacerbate past injustices, as Harvard Magazine reported.

If communities could practice strategic retreats, the study says, doing so would not only reduce the need for people to choose among bad options, but also improve their circumstances.

"It's a lot to think about," said Siders to Harvard Magazine. "And there are going to be hard choices. It will hurt—I mean, we have to get from here to some new future state, and that transition is going to be hard.…But the longer we put off making these decisions, the worse it will get, and the harder the decisions will become."

To help the transition, the paper recommends improved access to climate-hazard maps so communities can make informed choices about risk. And, the maps need to be improved and updated regularly, the paper said as the New York Times reported.


"It's not that everywhere should retreat," said Dr. Siders to the New York Times. "It's that retreat should be an option. It should be a real viable option on the table that some places will need to use."

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