France Built the World's First Carbon-Negative Public Building. And It's Made of Hemp?

It's a sports hall.
Can Emir
Pierre Chevet sports hall by lemoal lemoal.Elodie Dupuis/lemoal lemoal

A French architecture and landscaping company from the town of Croissy-Beaubourg has completed the country’s first hempcrete public building: Pierre Chevet sports hall.

The 4,000-square foot (380 square meters) building includes an exercise hall and changing rooms. What is Hempcrete? A mixture of hemp with lime and water, the sports hall that's made of Hempcrete is a carbon-negative building.

Hempcrete weighs eight of regular concrete and has thermal and acoustic properties, as well as being fire-resistant. Hemp can grow up to 13 feet (4 m) and can be cultivated in 90 to 120 days. It is lighter and less expensive than wood and can grow 100 times faster than an oak tree.

According to researcher Darshil Shah the Centre for Natural Material Innovation at Cambridge, hemp can capture carbon twice as effectively as a forest of trees.

"Numerous studies estimate that hemp is one of the best CO2-to-biomass converters. It's even more effective than trees. Industrial hemp absorbs between 8 to 15 tonnes of CO2 per hectare of cultivation" Shahaccording to Hemp Industry Daily.

Architects from the studio lemoal lemoal told Deezen, the main challenge with hemp was to convince clients that it’s a viable alternative to concrete because a hemp wall looks a little more rustic and not as refined as concrete. Hempcrete is currently more expensive than concrete, but with its insulation properties, it can be advantageous in the long term, due to reducing energy bills.

The building’s walls are infilled with hempcrete blocks, then clad with cement-fiber panels to protect the hemp blocks from weather conditions. The hemp panels were grown and fabricated within 310 miles (500 km) of the site and made by the cement manufacturer Vicat

Hopefully, this environmentally friendly novel material will lead to broader adoption in architecture around the globe. 

Building materials are responsible for 11 percent of global carbon emissions, and as the building industry continues to look for ways to lower its carbon footprint, scientists, architects, and manufacturers are searching for natural materials. Together with many other biomaterials like mycelium and algae, hemp is gaining popularity as being one of the most sustainable materials in the world.

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