Hempcrete and SBS (Sick Building Syndrome)
For decades, the emphasis on using materials and construction methods that ensured our homes and buildings were thoroughly sealed from the elements has led to huge increases in energy efficiencies. However, a disturbing trend of unexplained illnesses amongst those living in some of the most developed structures has emerged, baffling physicians and residents alike. Only recently have we begun to better understand the consequences of these seemingly beneficial building practices. Sick Building Syndrome (SBS) has emerged as a condition to explain the perplexing, but very real condition that causes the residents of a building to become ill.
We now understand when it comes to the safety of a building, hazardous construction materials combined with new building practices and poor maintenance can spell disaster for those that occupy it.
But there is a natural and powerful solution that can help reduce or eliminate SBS: hemp-based building materials. Sustainable and chemical-free, hempcrete and hemp fiber insulation are not only impressive construction materials with a wide array of applications and benefits, but have serious green credentials too.
Let’s explore the amazing ways hempcrete can help eliminate SBS and create an overall healthier atmosphere for humans – and the environment.
What is Sick Building Syndrome?
Sick building syndrome (SBS) is a condition whereby people occupying a building suffer from various symptoms of illness. Exposure to mold, chemical contaminants from building materials and furniture, excessive carbon dioxide gas build-up and other issues can wreak havoc on a resident’s respiratory, immune, and endocrine systems.
Building occupants have reported symptoms like eyes, nose, or throat irritation, skin complaints, asthma, and asthma-like symptoms, and gastrointestinal issues. Even serious autoimmune disorders with root causes that are often impossible to pinpoint and even more difficult to treat have been reported.
What are hemp-based building materials?
Made with a mixture of hemp hurd and hydraulic lime binder, hempcrete, and hemp fiber insulation are natural, safe, and effective alternatives to regular building materials.
When the ingredients are blended with water, it ignites a chemical reaction between the lime binder and the water, setting the binder and gluing the hemp hurd particles together.
There are many benefits of hempcrete. Endlessly versatile, hempcrete can be used to make walls, form floor slabs, and ceilings, while hemp fiber is great for insulation. A renewable, sustainable, cost-effective biomaterial, hempcrete is an incredible way to build healthy homes and buildings.
1. Hempcrete is breathable and mold-resistant
Hempcrete is fully breathable. This means water vapor can pass through, creating a healthy airflow. This not only reduces the build-up of potentially toxic gasses indoors but prevents mold development as well.
When the air becomes humid, hempcrete absorbs moisture into the material, before releasing it when the relative humidity drops. One square meter of hemp wall can absorb up to an astonishing 4 gallons of water! With traditional industrial building materials, condensation is more likely to build upon the wall, leading to damp and mold spores which are harmful to health and SBS symptoms.
2. Hempcrete is chemical-free
Often nasty chemicals like formaldehyde are added to regular building and insulation materials. These contain Volatile Organic Compounds (VOCs) which are proven to negatively impact health due to their ‘off-gassing’ properties. VOCs have even been implicated in the rise of asthma and severe allergic reactions.
Because hempcrete is natural, entirely chemical-free, and does not ‘off-gas’, there is no danger of creating SBS which would trigger respiratory issues in building occupants.
3. Hempcrete is sustainable and great for the environment
Made with abundant materials like lime and hemp, hempcrete is an entirely sustainable industrial building material. Hemp grows super-quickly and can entirely replenish itself in just four months meaning it’s ultra-renewable.
Furthermore, hempcrete’s carbon footprint is incredibly low. In fact, hempcrete is better than zero carbon, it’s a real carbon-negative solution. During its life as a happy hemp plant growing in a field, it takes out more carbon from the atmosphere than what is emitted for harvesting, processing, and mixing into hempcrete.
4. Hempcrete is fire and pest resistant
Hempcrete is antimicrobial and antifungal. Eliminating the need for SBS-inducing chemicals (not to mention insecticides and pesticides during its production) hempcrete is a much healthier building material that will keep repelling harmful organisms and rodents.
Tests have concluded that hempcrete is fire-retardant too, winning a perfect ‘O’ under ASTM fire testing in the USA. Traditional building flame retardants often contain damaging VOCs, so using hempcrete will create a healthier indoor environment.
5. Hempcrete is economical and energy-efficient
Because it’s breathable, hempcrete reduces the need for costly mechanical ventilation systems, reducing the energy required to run a building, along with its operating costs too.
Hempcrete stores heat in the thermal mass of its wall, which is then released slowly as the building cools down. So, walls, floors, ceilings, and roofs made from hempcrete benefit from its superb thermal properties, thus reducing the fuel bill to heat the building.
When you consider the production of traditional building products, these are often made from non-renewable materials and harmful petrochemicals that can trigger SBS, using energy-intensive processes.
Discover the incredible benefits of hempcrete
The benefits of hempcrete are endless. With many applications, it’s a safe, economically sound alternative to regular construction materials.
At Environmental Living Industries we process the finest quality hemp hurd and fiber for use in a wide variety of building materials, including hempcrete and hemp fiber insulation. Click here to discover our full range of industrial hemp building materials and learn more about how ELI’s products pave the way for a cleaner environment, healthier living, and smarter industries!