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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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California is headed toward drought conditions as February, typically the state's wettest month, passes without a drop of rain. The lack of rainfall could lead to early fire conditions. With no rain predicted for the next week, it looks as if this month will be only the second time in 170 years that San Francisco has not had a drop of rain in February, according to The Weather Channel.

The last time San Francisco did not record a drop of rain in February was in 1864 as the Civil War raged.

"This hasn't happened in 150 years or more," said Daniel Swain, a climate scientist at UCLA's Institute of the Environment and Sustainability to The Guardian. "There have even been a couple [of] wildfires – which is definitely not something you typically hear about in the middle of winter."

While the Pacific Northwest has flooded from heavy rains, the southern part of the West Coast has seen one storm after another pass by. Last week, the U.S. Drought Monitor said more Californians are in drought conditions than at any time during 2019, as The Weather Channel reported.

On Thursday, the U.S. Drought Monitor said nearly 60 percent of the state was abnormally dry, up from 46 percent just last week, according to The Mercury News in San Jose.

The dry winter has included areas that have seen devastating fires recently, including Sonoma, Napa, Lake and Mendocino counties. If the dry conditions continue, those areas will once again have dangerously high fire conditions, according to The Mercury News.

"Given what we've seen so far this year and the forecast for the next few weeks, I do think it's pretty likely we'll end up in some degree of drought by this summer," said Swain, as The Mercury News reported.

Another alarming sign of an impending drought is the decreased snowpack in the Sierra Nevada Mountain range. The National Weather Service posted to Twitter a side-by-side comparison of snowpack from February 2019 and from this year, illustrating the puny snowpack this year. The snow accumulated in the Sierra Nevadas provides water to roughly 30 percent of the state, according to NBC Los Angeles.

Right now, the snowpack is at 53 percent of its normal volume after two warm and dry months to start the year. It is a remarkable decline, considering that the snowpack started 2020 at 90 percent of its historical average, as The Guardian reported.

"Those numbers are going to continue to go down," said Swain. "I would guess that the 1 March number is going to be less than 50 percent."

The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) Climate Prediction Center forecast that the drier-than-average conditions may last through April.

NOAA said Northern California will continue deeper into drought through the end of April, citing that the "persistent high pressure over the North Pacific Ocean is expected to continue, diverting storm systems to the north and south and away from California and parts of the Southwest," as The Weather Channel reported.

As the climate crisis escalates and the world continues to heat up, California should expect to see water drawn out of its ecosystem, making the state warmer and drier. Increased heat will lead to further loss of snow, both as less falls and as more of it melts quickly, according to The Guardian.

"We aren't going to necessarily see less rain, it's just that that rain goes less far. That's a future where the flood risk extends, with bigger wetter storms in a warming world," said Swain, as The Guardian reported.

The Guardian noted that while California's reservoirs are currently near capacity, the more immediate impact of the warm, dry winter will be how it raises the fire danger as trees and grasslands dry out.

"The plants and the forests don't benefit from the water storage reservoirs," said Swain, as The Mercury News reported. "If conditions remain very dry heading into summer, the landscape and vegetation is definitely going to feel it this year. From a wildfire perspective, the dry years do tend to be the bad fire years, especially in Northern California."