‘Explosive’ demand in Europe signals bright future for hempcrete
Construction’s journey towards a zero-carbon future has largely focused on modern materials and technologies. But the insulation and low carbon credentials of bio-based materials such as hempcrete are winning over some serious players.
The current 'explosive' demand for hemp hurd in Europe, while a temporary inconvenience for supply chains, signals a major shift forward for the hemp building sector and can advance the development of much-needed processing facilities.
“This is something we have or should have been expecting for a while, as the potential for expansion in the construction sector was always on the cards,” veteran hemp builder Steve Allin, founder and director of the Ireland-based International Hemp Building Association, said of the surge in demand for hemp building materials.
With most business plans requiring the identification of a potential market to prove the viability of hemp production, the current strong demand will help those advocating for fiber production facilities to be built, Allin suggested.
“For the longer term this is good news as it justifies establishing hemp processing facilities in many regions where there is currently a surge of interest in doing so,” Allin said.
What are the benefits of hempcrete?
- It is a carbon-negative material: the carbon hemp absorbs as a plant makes up for the carbon emitted during the processing phase of hempcrete.
- It is fire resistant and creates safe buildings.
- Hempcrete needs no added chemicals, hence it creates healthy indoors.
- It is an effective thermal insulator and performs well with temperature fluctuations.
- Hempcrete absorbs moisture during times of high relative humidity and releases it when the relative humidity drops.
- It is resistant to pests and other termites.
- In the processing phase, hempcrete requires less water than traditional cement.
- It takes decades to fully cure, so its strength and feature improve over time.
Hard to find
While prices for hemp hurd in Europe currently range from roughly €200-€450 per ton ($230-$515/t), supplies are hard to find at any price, according to George Popov from London-based hemp commodities trader Canxchange,
Calling the current demand for hemp hurd in Europe “explosive,” Popov said one-off buyers are finding it difficult to source the material.
Longer delivery times
“The demand for hurd is quite high and we’re seeing longer delivery times,” confirmed Belgian natural builder Wolf Jordan, who sells hurd and special additives for hempcrete construction along with natural paints and oils.
Currently orders out of France are backed up for 90 days, with months to wait. Those supplies come mostly from big producers such as Eurochanvre, CAVAC, Agro Chanvre and La Chanvrière.
Dutch fiber processor HempFlax reported as far back as November that it was running its factories continuously due to incredibly high demand. The company also announced a project to expand production capacity at its main location in Oude Pekela, Netherlands.
Shipments going abroad
Other sources told stories of major shipments going abroad, contributing to the squeeze on hurd supplies in Europe. Indian textile producers are reported to be sourcing large quantities of high-quality bast fibers from European producers.
U.S. buyers are reportedly importing European hurd for animal bedding and hemp construction as the overall fiber processing infrastructure for the American market continues to be built out. European hemp hurd remains the premium quality source on the global market.