European building projects have relied on hempcrete to construct insulating, non-weight bearing infill walls since the 1990s. In fact, the popularity of building with hempcrete grows year over year in France but, in the United States, a builder must acquire a special permit to work with the materials.
In Bellingham, Washington, one homeowner took on a project using hemp-lime and weighed in on the pros and cons of building a house with hempcrete. Pamela Bosch is in the process of renovating her 1960’s home using hemp-lime and has named the project the Highland Hemp House. She credits an intrigued Planning and Permit department worker and a town interested in sustainability for the ease of getting the proper permits for building. In fact, because the Highland Hemp House design was energy-efficient, Bosch’s permits were fast-tracked.
However, the process still wasn’t simple. Finding lawyers, builders, and other necessary ancillary contractors to work on a hempcrete project led to unexpected costs, much of which was due to a lack of understanding. Builders don’t know how to work with it, insurers don’t know how to quantify it, lenders can’t estimate it — the list goes on and on. Ignorance and unfamiliarity with hempcrete have led to disinterest from American building projects. It has also made things more difficult for private citizens who are interested in using the material in their own renovations or projects.