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Building Straw Houses From Flax To Hemp

Jim Finnel

Fallen Cannabis Warrior & Ex News Moderator
Hemp is an environmentally friendly, sturdy and durable plant with an interesting history. But before getting into the history, I'd like to clear things up because when people hear hemp, they automatically think marijuana. Comparing hemp to marijuana is like telling Grandma Steward that the beautiful ornamental poppies in her yard could be used for recreational purposes, too. I think she would be quite appalled at the comparison.

One way hemp and marijuana differ is in the levels of molecular compounds each contains. Hemp has a high percentage of an anti-psychoactive compound - meaning can't get you stoned - which counteracts the very low level of the psychoactive compound; whereas marijuana is the other way around. Basically, if someone tried to smoke hemp, it would show a great lack of intelligence on his or her part. Furthermore, if someone tried to eat hemp, that person should make sure to be close to a toilet because hemp is so fibrous that eating it is like the equivalent of taking three, or more, strong laxatives - and you still don't get a buzz.

Since that discussion is out of the way, we can move on to more grown-up information - like the environmental benefits, uses and history of hemp.

The environmental benefits from growing hemp include: less water use, shorter growing season, no pesticide or herbicide use, no need for chlorine bleaching when being processed, and it purges the soil of weeds for future crops to be planted in the same field.

Traditional uses of hemp include: using it for canvas, rope and clothing. Through technological advances, it can also be made into building products, like medium-density fiber board, beams or studs, or used for cars - the largest use for hemp fiber in Germany is for automotive panels. Hemp can also be consumed internally for its nutrient-rich properties.

Hemp oil and seeds contain unsaturated essential fatty acids and amino acids. The amino acids in hemp oil are similar to "complete" proteins like milk, eggs or meat. In recent years hemp oil and seeds in food have come under legal attack in the U.S. due to a trace level of the psychoactive compound found in hemp; the plant is regulated to contain 0.3 percent or less of the compound. In 2004, after years of court appeals, a Ninth Circuit judge ruled that the sale and import of industrial hemp remain legal. Meaning we can buy it from other countries, but it is still illegal for farmers to grow industrial hemp in the U.S. However, it was not always illegal to grow hemp in the U.S.

In fact, during World War II the U.S. Department of Agriculture started a campaign with the slogan "Hemp for Victory" to encourage farmers to grow hemp for rope, canvas and uniforms for soldiers. Farmers started growing hemp and it became a large crop - second to cotton in some southeastern states. So, what happened?

What changed was a definition. A law called the 1937 Marihuana Tax Act taxed people who were growing marijuana and hemp. Except our predecessors understood the difference between hemp and marijuana, so growing hemp was also taxed, yet legal. The definition changed in 1970 when a governmental department, along with help from chemical industry lobbying, changed the 1937 Marihuana Tax Act definition to include industrial hemp in the same category as the narcotic marijuana, therefore making it illegal to grow hemp in the U.S. Unfortunately, not many noticed the change in law at that time because the hemp industry has lost steam, and there wasn't really anyone to argue the case.

Nowadays, industrial hemp is gaining back its value and importance. In 1998, Canada started growing hemp and profits by selling it to consumers in the U.S. Recently, North Dakota state law legalized industrial hemp production because of the potential of the crop to help farmers. Even though the law passed there, farmers still have to get federal permission to grow hemp. So for now we'll just have to continue purchasing hemp from other countries and hope economic and scientific evidence will be considered, eventually allowing industrial hemp to be grown in the U.S.

Eartha Steward is written by Carly Wier, Holly Loff, and Beth Orstad, consultants on all things eco and chic at the High Country Conservation Center, a nonprofit 501(c)3 organization dedicated to waste reduction and resource conservation in our mountain community. Eartha believes that you can walk gently on our planet, even if you're wearing stylie shoes.

Ask Eartha: A grown-up conversation about hemp
 

Jim Finnel

Fallen Cannabis Warrior & Ex News Moderator
Fuelled by a growing demand for environmentally friendly buildings, hemp, wheat, flax and other grains are now being touted as emerging raw materials in the construction industry.

The merits of these so-called "biofibres" and their applications in Canada, the United Kingdom and other parts of the world was the basis of an international symposium that wrapped up in Kingston yesterday.

Shelagh McDonald, executive director of the Eastern Lake Ontario Regional Innovation Network, which organized the event, said the symposium brought together the researchers and industry leaders who are using biofibres to foster new developments.

"I know there are going to be some collaborations that will spark as a result of bringing people together," she told the Whig-Standard.

The Eastern Lake Ontario Innovation Network, partially funded by the province, promotes the bioproduct, biomedical and bioenergy industries.

The symposium attracted about 100 participants from Canada, the United States, Africa and the United Kingdom.

Participants in the symposium toured a hemp experimental farm near Belleville on

Over the two-day conference, a handful of guest speakers tackled topics such as using biofibres in the construction industry and combusting the material to turn it into green energy.

Speaker Colin MacDougall, a professor of civil engineering at Queen's University, leads a group researching straw-bale homes. He spoke yesterday about the work the group is doing inside a Queen's laboratory to learn more about the strength of walls made from straw bales.

So far, he said, the results show that straw-bale walls are durable and strong if constructed properly. "The performance seems to be pretty good," he said.

The group's tests look into what type of fibre bale, including flax, hemp or wheat, works best. They're also looking at what types of plaster, including clay or cement, applied over top of the bale, are more durable. They're even looking at the placement of the bales - flat or on edge - to find out which design is more stable.

The Natural Sciences and Engineering Research Council of Canada and the Canada Mortgage and Housing Corporation are funding the Queen's research on straw-bale homes.

MacDougall told the symposium that even though there are only about 100 straw-bale buildings across Ontario, the material is an excellent, low-cost and an environmentally friendly design choice.

The only problem is, in Ontario, there are no building codes pertaining to straw-bale homes. Anyone interested in building one has to obtain an expensive engineer's stamp to show the design is safe before they are able to obtain a building permit.

MacDougall said the more research done on straw-bale construction, the more likely it will become a more conventional building method. "We're really just scratching the surface," he said.

United Kingdom-based Mike Duckett spoke about his company's work with hemcrete, an environmentally friendly building material that combines hemp and lime. It's already used in various parts of Europe.

His presentation revealed the environmental and practical benefits of using the material, including the fact that it's sustainable, lightweight, a good insulator, airtight, easy to use, and fire and pest resistant. The material also absorbs carbon dioxide, one of the greenhouse gases.

Duckett said that each house constructed with hemcrete walls, roof and floors could reduce carbon dioxide emissions by 50 tonnes.

Hemcrete, which costs roughly the same as conventional building material, has been used to construct homes, office space, a warehouse and a theatre in Europe.

A building in England that has been touted as the most environmentally friendly warehouse in Europe doesn't require an air-conditioning system because the hemcrete material makes it possible to regulate the temperature inside at 14 C.

Hemcrete can be used to construct walls, floors and roofs in buildings that are made from steel, timber or concrete frames.

Duckett said that though it's not considered mainstream yet, he believes hemcrete has enormous potential to be used widely in the construction industry globally.

"What we know about this product to date is that it would work very well here in Canada," he said. "In the summer, it would eliminate the need for air conditioning."



News Hawk- User http://www.420Magazine.com
Source: THE KINGSTON WHIG-STANDARD
Author: Jennifer Pritchett
Contact: Osprey Media
Copyright: 2007, Osprey Media
Website: The Kingston Whig-Standard
 
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