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Texas A&M researching hempcrete, could be 'future of building homes'

Posted at 9:54 PM, Jul 12, 2022
and last updated 2022-07-12 22:54:38-04

BRAZOS VALLEY, Texas — Texas A&M University received over three million dollars in grant funding from the U.S. Department of Energy Advanced Research Projects Agency-Energy (ARPA-E) Harnessing Emissions into Structures Taking Inputs from the Atmosphere (HESTIA) program to research hempcrete and its ability to making housing more accessible and affordable.

The lightweight green building material has been proven to build durable homes by using hemp fibers, along with lime and water.

Dr. Petros Sideris is leading his research team in learning more about hempcrete and its capabilities for building sustainable structures.

“On this new idea, I think it’s a cool idea of essentially marrying construction with 3D printing with sustainable material, and that sustainable material would be hempcrete,” said Dr. Sideris, assistant professor in the Zachry Department of Civil and Environmental Engineering.

Nathan Touchette is the director of property at Habitat for Humanity in the Bryan/ College Station area and said he is open to the idea of using this material.

“It sounds like it’s a great product,” said Touchette. “I would like to see it used and how its application works in the field and kind of see some testing and research on it.”

With research soon to be underway, Dr. Sideris said there is a need for more housing and hempcrete could be the answer.

“I would say a pressing need that we have as a country,” said Dr. Sideris. “It’s probably worldwide, but definitely thinking about the United States, we have a major need of housing.”

Dr. Sideris says it’s their method that helps the material last.

“The method that we use makes it sustainable as well,” said Dr. Sideris. “That would be 3D printing. The nice thing about 3D printing is that you put material exactly in the location you’re using and make as much material as you need.”

He said with other materials such as concrete, you cannot unmix the mix, therefore with hempcrete, no product goes to waste because it’s reusable.

“Developing the material that we will use for printing and characterize it’s properties, making sure that it’s durable, making sure that is has the proper mechanical strength,” said Dr. Sideris.

The goal is to create a sustainable structure using hempcrete as the prime material, along with concrete.

“It has very good thermal insulation properties and it’s also hygroscopic which means it can regulate humidity and temperature,” said Dr. Sideris. “In the long term, you can reduce the need for heating and cooling.”

Touchette agrees that hempcrete has benefits but would like to know more about how accessible the material would be

“It adds an insulation value which is great,” said Touchette. “It’s a little bit more durable which makes the concrete a little less likely to chip. The benefits are there for sure. The accessibility is definitely is something that I question and the cost efficiency.”

With hempcrete not being as popular as concrete, Dr. Sideris says the cost is currently higher, but as soon as there is a demand the costs could become lower.

Touchette is interested in trying hempcrete if it helps their families.

“Definitely open to trying new products that could save our families money and save us money also in the long run,” said Touchette.

Dr. Sideris says the goal is to come up with a 3D printed design using hempcrete and take it into the market for companies to use in construction to create durable houses efficiently and in bulk.