Durham, NC

Like bamboo and willow, hemp is essentially a big grass. In its extensive history in the US, hemp touched the lives of founding fathers, explorers of distant lands and millions of normal everyday people. Grown for its fibers and used especially prolifically for ship ropes and nets, hemp eventually gained an unfortunate association with marijuana. There has been a slight resurgence of hemp growing, although its potential as an oil was overhyped and as a fiber it has a tough time competing with bamboo, cotton, nylon, etc. Hempitecture is commercially producing hemp batt insulation in Idaho, but they are equally priced to sheep’s wool, and sheep’s wool is the superior performer in closed-cavity applications. Hemp blocks and hempcrete have not made economic or performative sense for many architects and builders yet, although there is hope in the possibility of a drywall replacement for interior partitions made by Plantd. A larger hemp presence in the built environment would be welcomed, but the fiber must prove its worth.