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A hark back to Hemp

With the sound of bells and festive carols in the air and holidays on the horizon, it is an opportune time for a hark back to hemp as the most ‘mature’ renewable material in human history to date.


The history of hemp


Hemp has existed for centuries, and many poems and songs have been written about its amazing and versatile attributes and applications.


Hemp poems and songs can be traced back to the 16th century through the works of Shakespeare and other writers throughout history when hemp was popular before the industrial revolution. Today it still recognized as a versatile renewable product and more sustainable to produce than cotton in that it uses much less water.


The poet John Taylor wrote these lines in 1620 pointing out that hemp can bring ‘’pleasure’’. The poem written in auld English suggests that trade ships imported it for exotic use and medicines, but the poem remains ambiguous if it was used for textiles and other industries at that time.


‘’If Hempseed did not bring their commings in, ….
Elixirs, simples, compounds distillations, Gums in abundance brought from foraigne nations,’’ John Taylor, 17th Century poet.


Global trends in hemp production


This article highlights the incredible versatility of hemp and global trends in manufacturing hemp for a variety of products and as renewable building material in the Built Environment. Of all the interesting innovations and materials to choose from, hemp is poised for a variety of applications as a natural, renewable and sustainable material in the future especially since legislation has eased under the demand for sustainable building materials that are safe for people and the environment.


McKinsey Sustainability December 2023 review reports that ‘’many of the climate technologies needed to achieve deep decarbonization already exist''.


Hemp falls under the McKinsey category of Circular technologies and Circularity and Resources. For a breakdown of the 12 McKinsey's technology categories refer to Figure. 1 entitled A Network of Technologies is required to achieve climate goals.


The challenge for the Built Environment is about accelerating innovation and scale-up of renewable materials to achieve technical and commercial breakthroughs. McKinsey's report looks at 12 categories of technology, many ready and applicable in some capacity across the Built Environment. There is a gap however with novel technologies between when they are being tested as a proof of concept until they are mature enough to use at scale. In other words, not all technologies are ready for production at commercial scale.


Bridging this gap will require a greater commitment to research and development, government policy support and investment money and can take years depending on the existence and momentum of policy instruments and investment mechanisms. In terms of maturity and readiness of hemp for use at commercial scale, it is now a global venture with a market valued at $4.7 billion. CBD World News reports that the total valuation is expected to increase dramatically by 2025, with a CAGR of 34% taking it up to $26.6 billion.


The versatility of hemp


The top five producers of hemp are China, Canada, USA, France, and Chile. There are over 20 hemp varieties approved in commercial production in Canada for use in a range of products such as hemp oils, hemp protein powders and help-derived cannabidiol.


According to CBD World News, in September 2019, a New Frontier Data report on hemp production in Europe indicated that the European countries produce about 25% of the world’s hemp supply. France alone accounts for over 40% of this volume.


Amsterdam’s Hempstory is the first concept store in the Netherlands that has a mission to educate consumers about the versatility of Hemp with a collection of beautiful body products, clothes and furnishings for the home. Similarly, HEMP Store in Australia is advocating HEMP products to support local businesses through buying eco conscious gifts for a more sustainable Christmas.


According to HEMP Store, hemp fiber has been relied upon for centuries if not thousands of years as a strong, durable, heavy-duty material that created the sails and ropes of our ancestors’ ships and their clothing too.


Some facts about hemp for creating textile:


1. Hemp contains none of the micro plastics and synthetic materials that can cause skin irritations and disruption to our bodily functions.

2. Hemp for textiles, depending on the area its grown, doesn’t require pesticides. This means no harmful chemicals are leaching into the earth to grow these materials. In fact, Hemp returns nutrients to the soil as it’s grown.

3. Cotton needs around 10,000 liters of water to produce just one kilogram of fiber, while hemp requires less than a quarter of the amount of water to grow, at only 2123 liters per kilogram of usable fiber.


Since the 2018 Farm Bill was introduced in the US, the hemp production volume has increased exponentially and the market is primarily targeted at manufacturing fabrics, hempcrete, help derived CBD, and textiles. Cannibistech published several articles in 2023 on the application of hemp in product manufacturing from cosmetics, pesticides, and pharmaceuticals to confectionary (sweets) and beverages.


Hemp for the Built Environment


As we look forward to the new year post COP28, there is an urgency to ramp up investment in renewable technologies to be ready for commercial scale in the Built Environment. There are many innovative materials in development for the Built Environment and Urdesign features 6 trending materials for Architects to watch offering energy efficient features and pleasing aesthetics including polished concrete floors which according to Deign Files, yes you guessed it -concrete floors can be made from hempcrete!


In Australia, Hempmasonry is extolling the virtues of hemp as a carbon neutral construction material (hempcrete) suitable for building a better future. Their hempcrete is Australian made and owned, is multi award winning and Green Building Products compliant (BCA compliant).  


X-HEMP, a hemp fiber processing mill in Tasmania, works with state licensed hemp farmers, converting hemp grain stubble left from the hemp seed harvest into mulch for landscaping, bast for specialty paper production, animal bedding and materials for the Built Environment.


‘’I started hearing about hempcrete buildings, and looking into environmental building products and carbon sequestration. Hemp does so many things that are great, you almost can’t believe it.” Andi Lucas, Founder & Managing Director, X-Hemp

In South West Minnesota, hemp is being used to build affordable housing by the Lower Sioux tribe. By April 2024 when construction is complete, the Lower Sioux-also known as part of the Mdewakanton Band of Dakota will have a 20,000-square foot manufacturing campus that will allow them to pioneer the manufacture of hempcrete, the first of its kind in the U.S. Grist.org says the initiative will have a positive socially sustainable impact as well with the creation of sustainable housing and jobs.



Hark now hear!


Harking back to days of old, it is clear that humans have used hemp in many ways for centuries. In my opinion, Hempcrete and other hemp products are a sure thing to hang your holiday hat on for a sustainable future, a hemp hat of course!


Have a great holiday everyone and thanks for your patronage in 2023!


Authored by Johanne Gallagher, Strategic Lead-Sustainability, ARKANCE (formerly VinZero).


“Let’s advance the way we work together to build a better world” – this is the vision that guides success for ARKANCE and its customers. A subsidiary of the French B2B services group MONNOYEUR, ARKANCE was founded in 2018 to become the leading digitalization partner for the construction and manufacturing sectors. Fueled by its innovative ‘Partner to Build Smarter’ strategy, ARKANCE combines its own purpose-built Be.Smart software portfolio and expert professional services with solutions from a network of world-class technology partners. With over 1300 employees spread throughout 50 locations worldwide, ARKANCE is a recognized leader in digital transformation across the construction, manufacturing, and infrastructure sectors.

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