NORTH AMERICAN PASSIVE HOUSE NETWORK CONFERENCE - Vancouver, BC
Oct. 1-2, 2015
To follow up the Passive House course and get even more PH information, I signed up to attend the NAPHN-15 conference being held in Vancouver this year. The North American Passive House Network is working hard to disseminate PH information and build a much larger industry in North America. There were many interesting presentations on all facets of building and development, as well as a ballroom filled with suppliers of high-efficiency and future-looking building products (stuff you won't necessarily see at Buildex.)
The most inspiring presentation I attended was by Graham Irwin from Essential Habitat speaking about the potential for a future All-Renewable Energy Grid. As I discovered, when working on a solar energy product, energy storage is the biggest hurdle for energy collection. And even larger than that, is the need to transfer abundant solar energy in the summer months for use in cold winter months, six-months later. What Graham determined, after studying and analyzing the data in a number of different scenarios, is that the best way to offset the energy requirements for building temperature management is to build a to Passive House, or better, standards. This keeps the indoor temperature as constant as possible, and as little energy need for heating or cooling. The City of Vancouver is considering the Passive House standard in its effort to be the greenest city in the world by 2020.
I believe that building with hempcrete is going to the best way to not only achieve the energy efficiency needed, but also to give people the natural, non-toxic indoor air quality that they will also be seeking for good health.
INTRODUCTION TO PASSIVE HOUSE COURSE - Vancouver, BC
Sep. 26, 2015
After spending some time investigating hempcrete and its phenomenal properties, I came across Passiv Haus design and immediately recognized the perfect match that hempcrete would make with this design initiative.
Essentially, Passive House is a building design that focuses on the energy demands of the building in regards to the thermal performance of the structure. It is very rigorous, taking into account the building envelope, complete insulating properties including thermal bridges and air leakages, and gains from passive solar heating.
To learn more I signed up for an introductory one-day course put on by the Canadian Passive House Institute West and presented by Monte Paulsen from Red Door Energy Design. The course was at Vancouver City Hall and was completely sold out to a wide range of architects, designers and builders in the local industry. There is definitely a ton of interest in the concepts of passive house design in the local industry and Vancouver is considered a hot spot for passive house design in North America. As well, the City of Vancouver looking to use it as a guideline for future building development in the city. As of now, there are no hempcrete passive houses in Canada, but the Nauhaus Prototype in North Carolina was designed to PH standards and built of hempcrete.
MEETING WITH HEMPCRETE NATURAL BUILDERS - Bowen Island, BC
August 25, 2015
After a series of attempts at meeting with Hempcrete Natural Builders, I finally managed to meet the owner, Jayeson Hendrysan, on a beautiful summer afternoon over a beer at the Bowen Island Pub.
I had already had a few conversations on the phone with Jayeson, so I knew we had similar ideas on building, but it was great to finally meet someone who had been creating actual buildings. And he has been at it for a while now! His interest in hempcrete started with his own home, and has led to numerous different projects around various points in B.C and Alberta. He has also run a number of hempcrete workshops to train others on how to build with hempcrete and make lasting walls, so has really been a force in the industry getting started.
He seems to be getting ample interest these days and it is getting to be more than he maybe expected. There are a few potential projects on the near horizon, so we talked about how they might be approached and engaged for contract. It seems that the time is ripe for this type of building product, and if we see a new government in Canada with an actual leader at the helm, the industry will really take off.
I also had the pleasure of meeting Mat Hallam-Eames from Qmata Technologies, who is essentially Jayeson's main power and mechanical guy. Mat has tons of ideas of how to make buildings much more energy efficient and self-powered, so that the owners can get them off-grid. This is the future of real Living Buildings.
INDUSTRIAL HEMP FARMING IN B.C. - Meeting in Richmond, BC
Apr. 30, 2015
In my research for hemp and hempcrete building in B.C., there was some information about hemp cultivation that stood out. 100 Mile House has a very interesting story of learning to cultivate the industrial hemp plant, over food grade hemp, when the pine beetle had wiped out part of the forestry industry in their area. I decided that a phone call was in order to see where their program was heading, as the last report was from 2011.
After a few messages and missed calls, I managed to have a couple of conversations with Joanne Doddridge and found out that they are all ready to go with growing hemp in the area - up to 1000 acres to start - but they need some guarantees that their crop will be purchased and processed. The trouble is that hemp is still so controlled that the farmers need to apply for permits by Jan. 1st, which can then give them access to seeds. They are very interested in pilot plant projects, preferably based in the area, to test the waters with and will then be ready to grow bigger.
Eventually, I managed to have a meeting with Joanne, when she was in the city for a conference, and one of their growers, who has committed annually to growing hemp crops, Peter Dushop. They are both chomping at the bit to see the industry come together so they can get the farmers growing this valuable plant, but so far there has been no concrete offers or plans to start a processing facility. It will be very important to make this happen for a local hemp building industry in BC to thrive.
ILFI and CASCADIA GBC EVENT - Vancouver, BC
May 7, 2015
Through my interest in sustainable building practices, I started to learn more about the different organizations that are setting the standards for green building around the world. I had taken a LEED introductory course a few years back when I was running a wood flooring company, but it didn't seem a very complete standard. In the end, I learned that it was better for us to offer a free bike rack with every purchase of wood flooring for a LEED building, as the customer would be guaranteed to get a point for the bike rack, but not necessarily for the wood flooring!
There are more comprehensive building methods now, such as Passiv Haus and Net Zero. One of the more challenging ones is the Living Building Challenge put forth by the International Living Future Institute out of Seattle. I found out about their event through LinkedIn and decided that it would be well worth attending to understand the future of sustainable building.
I wasn't disappointed. It was held at DUDOC - the Dutch Urban Design Center, which has lots of interesting industrial design which to contemplate - and there were numerous like-minded individuals there to meet and talk to. It was a great introduction to the work of the ILFI and 2 new programs they have just launched. It was also a good place to get some more feedback on the knowledge and interest in hempcrete as a building product - and as usual, there was lots of interest!
MORE HEMPCRETE STRUCTURAL BUILDING BLOCK INFO - Vancouver, BC
Apr. 22, 2015
I finally had a chance to meet with Michael DeChamplain from Just Bio Fiber Structural Solutions and hear more about their plans and business development. We met over coffee and I brought along a friend, who has interest in hemp and is putting together an investment fund for these types of products. That meant that I got to hear more detailed information, after signing the company NDA. This also means that I can't say too much here.
All in all, things are progressing very well for Just Bio Fiber. They are currently raising seed money to continue developing the product, working on the engineering and preparing for product testing. They are building alliances with important industry partners and getting the pieces in place to be able to start production later in the year. Michael said that they are getting lots of attention from many different areas, but the first thing will be to secure their patents and get funding together.
After the meeting we had a chance to go out to the street and pull 3 of the blocks out of Michael's trunk and have a good look at them. For their size, they are surprisingly light, which would indicate that there is lots of insulating air in them. There is still good mass for thermal storage, but each block is easily handled by one person, to set it in place over another one. A pretty cool design and the natural Lego block of building products!
STAY TUNED - MORE STORY TO FOLLOW.....
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STRUCTURAL BUILDING BLOCK DEVELOPMENT - Balzac, AB
After staying in contact Michael and following the development of Just BioFiber Structural Solutions through the summer, as well as meeting with a few architects to judge the interest in the product (it was really good!), I decided it was time to go out and meet the President, Terry Radford, and get a better understanding of what they are working on.
Terry was a fantastic host! He picked me up at the airport, drove me out to meet Mac and the team, showed me what was going on there, and got me back to airport for my flight in the evening. At this point, they are set up with a nice-sized garage workshop with drying room to make test blocks on the bench in preparation for lab testing and understanding future production processes. Their engineering is being done by Read Jones Christofferson Consulting Engineers and the structural figures for the block are looking very good. With a special shear sleeve that is designed to tie the blocks together, it is calculated that buildings may go as high as 800' using these blocks. They are doing everything to make sure the buildings last for hundred of years, and the blocks can be used in all types of buildings. They passed their 1-hour fire test with flying colours, as the stuff really doesn't burn (they showed me using a blow torch while holding a piece in their hand!) It is really an impressive development and will change the way we design and look at sustainable buildings in the very near future. They are hoping to have a plant designed and being set up in 2016 and be at full production in 2017. I'm looking forward to seeing their first demonstration buildings in 2016!
A HEMPCRETE GARAGE - Bowen Island, BC
Sep. 4, 2015
These photos are from a recent hempcrete renovation. I travelled over to Bowen Island for the afternoon to see how this build was progressing and have a sunny cross-island bike ride. Jayeson Hendrysan of Hempcrete Natural Builders is renovating a rotted out garage and replacing the walls with hempcrete infill, as well as putting a new deck over top. The images show the hempcrete walls that have been poured, have set and have been drying out. I showed up as they were putting on the first coat of lime stucco to help seal the exterior of the hempcrete from rain and further moisture. The stucco is vapour permeable to allow the hempcrete to continue to dry out, which means the wall needs no vapour barrier. The interior of the garage is to be finished at a later date.
THE REALIZATION OF HEMPCRETE - Vancouver, BC
This is not the story of how hempcrete came to be; it definitely was not created in Vancouver. It has been around for hundreds of years, if not thousands. The Hemp plant has been cultivated around the world for centuries (the government of Canada says 10,000 years), as well as lime mortar being used by the Romans for their architecture and by the Chinese in building the Great Wall.
The more recent story of hempcrete starts in the mid-1980's in France, which was one of only a few countries still cultivating hemp during the near world-wide ban on the cannabis plant. Apparently, Charles Rassetti came up with the idea of using the woody inner core of the hemp plant (called "shiv" or "hurd" and previously thought of as waste) and mixing it with a lime binder to create a bio-aggregate for repairing the medieval oak-framed house he was renovating. Hempcrete spread from there through Europe in the 1990's, with many countries now having a thriving hempcrete building industry. France, Spain, Italy, UK, the Netherlands, Belgium, Ireland, and others now have hemp building product manufacturers, which include pre-mixed hempcrete binders, hempcrete bricks, hempboard, hemp batt insulation, plus more.
My personal realization of hempcrete walls came while doing Internet research on sustainable building products. I think many people, who are familiar with building and have a sense of how we are polluting our living environments and planet with oil-based building products, will have the same astonished reaction to hempcrete, when first coming across it, as I had. It blew my mind that this product was not in widespread use, in this day and age of climate change and atmospheric carbon accumulation! As a simple and natural product, it ticks all the boxes of performance, safety and cost. I kept on thinking there must be something wrong with it - there must be a reason why it is not more widely used if it is such a phenomenal product!?!? But, I could find nothing that indicated any major faults of hempcrete as a product, except commercial development.
Besides the fact that hemp cultivation was banned in Canada until 1998, it seems that there has been very little commercial interest in developing hempcrete. Maybe this is because the traditional method of mixing hempcrete on site and pouring into forms seems too antiquated and messy for most people to consider. They want clean, manufactured, and wrapped-in-plastic building materials to arrive on site for their house or building. It may have something to do with the large established corporations that supply building materials having no interest in something new and not wanting to lose any market share. To some degree it seems that the market crash in 2008, as well as the last, very un-progressive government of Canada were holding things back here. There was one chart I saw for industrial hemp production in Canada, which showed good growth through 2006, then a slump for a number of years before finally recovering to former numbers in 2011.
It didn't take long to realize that there is very little being done in Canada and the US in regards to hempcrete. There was some minor activity I could find, but for the size of the overall building industry, it was peanuts. The time seemed ripe to realize a much bigger hempcrete industry for North America and change how we build.
I decided, pretty well right there and then, I was going to jump in and make a difference with hempcrete!
GREATER VANCOUVER CLEAN TECHNOLOGY EXPO and CHAMPIONSHIP - Surrey, BC
Jan. 28, 2015
What a great day! I attended the Clean Tech Expo at the new City Hall in Surrey, with a friend who is developing a solar roof tile (www.soltrak.com), to see some new technology, as well as do more networking and start-up learning. Luckily there was a brand new hempcrete product on display!
Just BioFiber Structural Solutions is a Canadian startup that has come out with the first structural hempcrete block in the world. I met the CFO, Michael DeChamplain, and the creator of the block, Mac Radford, who was there showing his design for the first time in a public arena, after years of development work.
There wasn't too much time to talk with them, as they had probably the busiest booth at the show. I did get their card and said that I would definitely be following up with them. It's an exciting step forward for the hempcrete industry in Canada, although there is still much work to make this product a commercial reality.
MAKING HEMPCRETE HAPPEN - Using the BC Ferry system
This is what trying to create healthy, sustainable hempcrete homes looks like in 2016 - riding ferries. Having lived in Vancouver for most of my life, I have never travelled on the ferry so much! Took another ride after spending the day getting over to Parksville on Vancouver Island for a meeting with a developer who wants to build a hempcrete show home in Squamish. Why meeting in Parksville? Because Jayeson (right side of the picture), who has been building with hempcrete for 14 years now, is building the first of many buildings on a property in Errington for an intentional community that is just starting up. It seems that most of the hempcrete work he has done is on islands or in remote locations, where people already live healthy lifestyles and where building permits are easier to achieve for alternative wall systems. The meeting went well, the ferry ride was beautiful with a clear sky and calm waters, and we look forward to doing a great project this year in Squamish.
THE STORY (and on-going progress)
JUST BIOFIBER SHAREHOLDERS UPDATE & DINNER - Burnaby, BC
Dec. 5, 2015
I was also invited to attend the Just Bio Fiber Structural Solutions Update & Dinner for Shareholders being held at Riverway Golf Course's Mulligans restaurant. It was great to see Terry, Mac and Michael again and to meet other like-minded individuals looking to see future success with or from natural building materials. The dinner was delicious, my dining companions both intellectually stimulating and vibrantly humourous, and the presentation by Mac, Terry and Michael very inspiring for what the future holds. They have continued to make headway on setting up their production facilities, as well as on the product design. They brought the first samples of the stainless steel shear sleeve that is crucial to the product significantly outperforming concrete masonry units for compressive strength. They appear very structurally convincing and will go a long way to ensuring that JBF will be able to grant a 100-year warranty for their product.
It was a very busy day with lots of travel, but this dinner was the perfect way to celebrate a hempcrete year!
SUSTAINABILITY PRESENTATION EVENT - Errington, BC
Dec. 5, 2015
I was invited by Jayeson Hendrysan to a Sustainability Presentation that his customer in Errington and he have put together. The event was hosted by Frank and Gerda Christensen at their home in Errington and was focused on housing and group living. Frank and Gerda are in the process of building an intentional community, called Forestway Cooperative Living, on a property they have in Errington, and therefore were interested in bringing together like-minded presenters and individuals to share their information, stories, interests and ideas for sustainable living. The speaker's list included: Jayeson Hendrysan from Hempcrete Natural Builders, Brandy Gallagher from O.U.R Ecovillage, Murray Black from Valterra Village, Steve Brady from Omega Villages, and Dr. Erica Frank from UBC.
I traveled up to Errington with Dave Ransier from Target Homes, who is quite interested in the idea of hempcrete and building in more sustainable and natural ways, and wanted to hear Jayeson speak. We had a great conversation about the future of building on the way up to and back from the event. Unfortunately, we both had evening commitments to attend, so could not stay for all the speakers at the event.
HEMPCRETE HOUSE REBUILD PROJECT MEETING #2 - Sechelt, BC
Nov. 24, 2015
This project appears to be moving ahead with a team effort to try and bring hempcrete into the fold. This is important overall, as if they want to try and achieve some of other sustainability and off-grid elements they are planning, the owners are going to need to start with a high-performance building envelope.
Spani Developments has been designated as the builder and Hempcrete Natural Builders will be working with them to provide the hempcrete walls, as well as the design and supply of overall building soundproofing, insulation, and mechanical systems for alternative energy. This meeting helped to solidify the relationships for the team as well as begin to outline some of the requirements by the owners and a rough timeline from which to plan. It is a very aggressive plan for the amount of work that needs to be done, but the owners are on a tight schedule to get their house and business back on track, so we will need to work quickly to plan and attain all the objectives outlined.
HEMPCRETE HOUSE REBUILD PROJECT SITE MEETING - Halfmoon Bay, BC
Oct. 29, 2015
After meeting with talking to Jayeson Hendrysan about his business and different projects for a few months, I was invited to attend a site meeting for a potential hempcrete project near Sechelt, BC. The house in question had a roof fire earlier in the year and it was now to be rebuilt with insurance money. Their intention is to rebuild the structure with as much natural building technique as they can, including alternative water, mechanical and energy systems they can. As it was just the roof that burnt, they are going to retain the original wood framing and rebuild around that. This works well with hempcrete, as the inside can be boarded with magnesium oxide board and then formwork can be installed to the exterior of the framing to create hempcrete walls.
This meeting included the building owners, the construction company, and energy consultant and the hempcrete team. There were definitely lots of good ideas for the project and many things the owners want to do to try and improve the indoor air quality for their home and potentially getting off-grid in the future. More meetings are needed to get this project sorted out and on a good path.
HEMPCRETE SHED BUILDING - Errington, BC
I was asked by Jayeson from Hempcrete Natural Builders to come help them with a little hempcrete pour on the cooperative living site they are working on in Errington, BC. The site is just outside of Parksville and takes a while to get there, but it really is a beautiful area around there. Lots of big trees and private yards.
They have been busy in the past few months with getting a larger shed rehabilitated and a roof on for storage. They have also built the forms for the main house foundations. It really is going to be an expansive site once everything is done.
The building we were working on was a shed off in the corner of the lot. It will house the power and services for the entire lot, so it is important to get it done and sealed up first. They had already done all the framing and formwork before I arrived and it was up to a team of 6 to get the walls poured with hempcrete in just 2 days.
It ended up being quite a workout to get it all done in 2 days, in very wet weather. At least it wasn't cold, but the rain slowed things down. We also were down to only 5 people on the second day, so it was lots of work to cover what needed to be done. But we worked hard and got it all done in the time allotted.
It will be fun and interesting to see how it looks once the forms come off. Jayeson is really practiced at working 2 mixers at the same time and pumping out the hempcrete. It's going to be a pretty dense wall, but it will be good to have a solid building that will last for a long time. Fun times!
HEMPCRETE HOUSE REBUILD PROJECT MEETING #3 - Sechelt, BC
Dec. 8, 2015
I attended another planning meeting for the house rebuild in Halfmoon Bay, this time with Tom Hadley from Hempcrete Natural Builders. He will be the construction supervisor on site for HNB, so it was important to start nailing down some of the details on this project. The build is supposed to start in less than a month, and there still seems to be a large number of unresolved issues. We met with the owners and Spani Developments to try and iron out some of the decisions that need to be made, so that pricing and scheduling can be refined. There are also some questions from the Sunshine Coast Regional District on the use and performance of hempcrete and we will need to review the specs with the engineer and iron these out with the SCRD. Luckily, the owners are committed to using hempcrete for their home and want to see this all worked out.
HEMPCRETE PRESENTATION AT PROSCENIUM ARCHITECTURE - Vancouver, BC
Talking with the team from Just Bio Fiber during the dinner in December, I learned that they are interested in finding feature projects for their hempcrete block in the coming year. I had read that Mountain Equipment Co-op was planning to rebuild their store in the Olympic Village in Vancouver, and Michael from JBF was quite interested in this project.
I contacted an old acquaintance from Proscenium Architecture who was designing the new building for MEC, and he suggested a lunch-and-learn for his team to learn more about this innovative new product. Proscenium is definitely at the leading edge of sustainable building in Vancouver and winning awards for their forward-thinking designs. Coordinating with Mac from JBF, I scheduled the lunch and learn for today, and met them at the venue to observe.
Hugh Cochlin and his team were very interested in and receptive to what Mac and Michael had to say about the product and company. They had a few tough questions for Mac and wanted to know more about assembly and engineering approval for the block system. There were quite interested in using it for an MEC project they are working on in Edmonton, but without a 2-hour fire-rating test completed yet, they are unable to specify it. All in all, it was a very worthwhile effort and Hugh said they would definitely be interested in using the block in future designs, when it was fully tested and ready.
GLOBE 2016 Innovation Expo - Vancouver, BC
Mar. 4, 2016
"The Leadership Summit for Sustainable Business" was in Vancouver again and it is a good place to check out innovation in sustainability. I knew that Just Bio Fiber has a booth there, and the president, Terry Radford, was to present at the Powerhaus Pitches, so I wanted to see the latest news with them. Plus, the Prime Minister and the Premiers had a conference and press gallery, so it must be an important event.
I wish I could say that it was a more exciting event, but I guess that arriving in the last few hours on a Friday afternoon, is not the best time to be seeing the action. The Powerhaus Pitches ranged in their usual way from somewhat discernable to highly energetic, and there were some pretty innovative ideas overall, such as cute electric vehicles and fusion energy. For someone, like myself, that is hoping the world is going to change very quickly to a completely sustainable one, it seemed to not offer as many solutions as are needed. At least there were companies and countries represented from all over the world, exhibiting a growing global consensus that we must innovate or perish.
In checking through the list of exhibitors, the one that really caught my eye was a company with fiberglass rebar called Tuf-Bar, which seems like it would be a perfect fit with hempcrete to strengthen walls. Interestingly, when I was talking with Terry and Mac at the Just Bio Fiber booth, they told me that they had changed their internal structure for the hempcrete block from wood and stainless steel to a pultruded fiberglass, one-piece frame, made by the same company as doing the rebar (you can see a sample of it in orange in the picture below.) This change is not only going to make it easier to manufacture the blocks, but they will be more accurate, stronger, more fire-resistant and probably last longer. It is an exciting development for them and it will be interesting to see in finished form.
HEMPCRETE WORKSHOP - Seattle, WA
Feb. 21, 2016
I decided it would be a good idea to get a broader experience on mixing hempcrete, so I signed up for the Hemp Technologies one-day hempcrete workshop in Seattle, WA. I ended up having a completely private workshop, as all the other participants, who were scheduled to drive up from Portland, ended up having bus troubles and didn't make it. So, instead of being in a cold warehouse, I was taught the history, science, applications, benefits and regulations in the comfort of Joy Beckerman's cozy home!
Joy is an intense instructor on all things hemp and the course was very informative. The morning was spent covering all the videos and slides on her experience and knowledge of hemp. After a lunch, which included hemp hearts and she provided, we got down to mixing up a few sample hempcrete blocks for me to take home. To end the day, we connected with Greg Flavell, the Co-Founder of Hemp Technologies Collective, via Skype, and I was able to ask even more direct and in-depth questions of his knowledge of the material.
All in all, it was a very worthwhile workshop for an excellent and thorough introduction to hempcrete. I'm sure it might have been somewhat more socially entertaining to have a whole warehouse full of people mixing hempcrete, but I preferred the private instruction and time to drill into the material much deeper.
Art & Science of the High Performance Passive House @ AIBC - Vancouver, BC
Nov. 10, 2016
On Thursday November 10th, the Architectural Institute of B.C. held its first passive house event, centering on their gallery presentation of Passive House projects in B.C. This opening reception included a moderated panel discussion on green building and Passive House technology.
As with previous Passive House events that I have been to in this city, the room was packed with a range of interested stakeholders, including architects, engineers, designers, city planners and suppliers. There was definitely a buzz in the air for this event!
The panel was well moderated and the questions very pertinent. Listening to the answers from the builders and architects on how they make a business case for building to Passive House standards, it struck me how much this program should be adopted by the province. All of the answers essentially stated that it was the right way to build, and that anything less is really just cutting corners. If the city were to adopt Passive House as the standard, there are a variety of ways to achieve this but they all require forethought and planning and a little more upfront cost. If everyone were doing this, the question wouldn't be "why is this costing me more?" but it would be "why am I not getting the performance for the money I'm spending?" It wouldn't be about getting the lowest priced building built, but rather the highest performing for the money spent like many products of quality.
In fact, taking this a step further, one can easily see that the B.C. government spending $9billion+ on a dam is a waste of financial resources. If that money (or even a portion of it) were to be put towards establishing the Passive House standard for construction in B.C., the economy, industry and the environment would be better off overall. The money could be put into policy, engagement, education, innovation and new initiatives that would continue to pay off down the road for a much longer time than a dam will. The number of jobs that would be created would be far greater, and B.C. would end up being a leader and net exporter of their innovations and knowledge to the world!
At least the City of Vancouver is recognizing the Passive House standard in building applications and making special allowances for this type of construction. In general for the future, the CoV is focusing on GHG emissions, as well as indoor air quality, which bodes very well for hempcrete. It is a carbon-negative building material, as well as non-toxic and very healthy, so I hope to see some hempcrete projects coming to the city soon.
Zero Waste Conference: A Future Without Waste - Vancouver, BC
Nov. 3, 2016
The 6th Annual Zero Waste Conference sounded like a good place to learn more about innovations and a future of less wasteful products and policy, so I signed up without delay. What an inspiring event to attend, with many sustainability experts talking about a future without the waste we see and experience in today's world.
Of course, there is far more to cover than can be done in a 1-day event, especially when you are trying to cover 4 different areas: Innovation in the Marketplace, Repair & Reuse, Food Waste and The Built Environment. But at least there is an awareness that we need to address this issue and many people out there with ideas and solutions.
The opening keynote speaker, Neri Oxman, was very inspiring with the work she is doing to fuse product design with biological systems engineering and computer technology. Some of it is very artistic, but the methods are derived from the natural world, where materials perform multiple functions and are non-linear. Very hard to replicate in production, but not impossible. Her presentation is quite fantastical, but it made me realize how multi-functioned hempcrete is in not only providing an envelope and insulation, but also being able to breathe moisture, absorb CO2 and other toxins, prevent fire and mould and protect wooden framing. Hempcrete is essentially a 1-component system that replaces the insulation, moisture barrier, and even plywood to make up the entire "wall body". What could be simpler and more multi-functioning?
The sessions were all very interesting and informative, but I was mostly interested to see what was talked about in The Built Environment session. There is definitely some innovation in materials and building being done by Josh Taron, Clint Undseth and Sudhir Suri, but as Sudhir claims, I don't think we are working hard enough on this problem or looking far enough ahead into the future. Especially when we heard the work being done by the company of the final presenter of the day, Owen Zachariasse. Owen's company, Delta Development Group from the Netherlands, is building fully integrated development projects that consider cradle-to-cradle and circular economic principles in land use, product choice and design aesthetics. It seems so far beyond what we are doing here in Canada that we have a long way to go to catch up to this level of commitment to the environment.
Metro Vancouver Sustainability Community Breakfast - Vancouver, BC
Nov. 4, 2016
To follow on the footsteps of the Zero Waste Conference, Metro Vancouver had a Sustainability panel presentation the following morning focusing on Innovations in Construction and Demolition. It was so closely related to the event the previous day, that we got to hear again from Clint Undseth from Stuart Olsen, Inc. along with Fiona Famulak from Vancouver Regional Construction Association and Albert Shamess from the City of Vancouver.
The VRCA is working on some new initiatives based on a study they had commissioned called the Construction Innovation Project. (The report is a comprehensively good read and opened by clicking on the green link.) From this study of the $15B construction industry in BC, they realized that there is a lack of innovation and investment in R&D in B.C. To not fall behind, or better yet, to capitalize on the innovation that we have fostering here in the province, there needs to a more cohesive, developed plan for sponsoring and supporting innovation in this sector. Along with this, they have determined that the building sector has the greatest potential for achieving "significant energy and GHG emission reductions, and at the least cost." To that end, the VRCA is proposing an Innovation Council and develop plans for a province-wide innovation network and center for development. This should help to coordinate efforts and catalyze innovation for the construction industry in B.C.
This is exciting news for entrepreneurs that are working on new products or ideas for the construction industry. The barriers to entry for new products are numerous and to have an industry supporting innovation should help to make our innovators, as well as the industry and province, more successful in the coming years.
First Hempcrete Kickstarter Campaign in North America Funded!! - Sherbrooke, Quebec
Oct. 23, 2016
A Kickstarter campaign for the first hempcrete block press in North America, called "Building with Hemp", was fully funded today.
Art du Chanvre, from Sherbrooke, QC was funded by 224 backers for $27,920 to make the first hempcrete block press of its kind. Even though hempcrete blocks are well known in Europe, North America has been much slower in catching on to this amazing building product. It is exciting to see that people are beginning to respond to this new product and see the benefit of using non-toxic, and long-lasting building materials for their homes.
Art du Chanvre has a beautiful website and does amazing natural finishing on their projects, so I'm certain this product is going to be of top quality and performance. I'm looking forward to seeing more, very soon!
Green Building Expo Asia - Bangkok, Thailand
Sept. 21-23, 2016
A long way to go for a trade show, but as there aren't a lot of companies producing hempcrete products outside of Europe, I wanted to see what the Studio Green product was like and meet the owner. The Green Building & Retrofit Expo Asia was maybe not quite as impressive for sustainable building materials and solutions as it might sound (there were even a booth selling Thai silk scarves) but good to see that there is something going on for green building over there, as I have to say that Bangkok is a polluted, CO2 nightmare!
Studio Green is a design studio from Singapore that has come up with an external hempcrete cladding panel, as well as blocks, that are more brick than insulating panel. They are producing in Thailand using Chinese hemp and a proprietary binder. As one of the few innovative products that I saw on the last day of the marginally attended show, they were definitely getting lots of interest. In speaking to Jaye Tan, the creator of the product, their success is slow to come, but they have seen a few projects so far. I believe there will be more demand soon, as it seems there is lots of interest for industrial hemp in Thailand, Indonesia and the Philippines. Check out the project they completed at the CDL Green Gallery @ SBG Heritage Museum in Singapore.
Tumbleweed Tiny House Workshop - Vancouver, BC
Mar. 5-6, 2016
Getting excited about building something with hempcrete, I thought that the best place to start would be with a tiny house. Start small and build from there is a reasonable process. As I was thinking about this in February, it just so happened that Tumbleweed Tiny House Company was advertising for a workshop in Vancouver at the beginning of March.
I signed up and went expecting about 15-20 people from Vancouver ready to learn about building a tiny home. I arrived to a room with 80 seats, and it was mostly full. By the time the class started, the room was packed! During the introductions, I discovered there were people there not only from Vancouver and the Lower Mainland, but many from Vancouver Island and the rest of BC, Alberta, Saskatchewan, Manitoba, Washington, Colorado, Montana, California, Germany, Virgin Islands, Australia and even 3 people there from Singapore. This is definitely a movement that is catching on.
Here are some of the reasons mentioned during personal introductions as to why people wanted to build tiny homes (with many of the short intros being very humourous!):
Easier Life Rental Possibility Work Less/Buy Less Green Option
Low Budget Living Tiny House Community Sustainable Lifestyle Eco-Village
Homesteading Have Less > Live More Simpler Living Get Rid of Bills
Minamilism Retirement Option Opening Up Options Owning My Own Place
Avoiding a Mortgage Coop Developer Community Thinking Don't Like Winter
Atone for My Sins! Reduce the Crap Load
The rest of the weekend workshop was just as enjoyable as the introductions and very informative. They provide you with a complete workbook of the slides presented so you can write notes as you follow along. The presentation is comprehensive, giving a great idea of everything that needs to go into planning, building and living in your tiny home. The instructor Guillaume Dutilh, and his partner in tiny home, Jenna Spesard, are very good at swapping off on stories and information and keeping the course entertaining, especially as they have a tiny home of their own, called Tiny House Giant Journey, that they have driven more than 35,000km around North America. On the Sunday morning, they organized a visit to a tiny home that is currently at the Trout Lake Community Center, so that everyone could have a really good idea of what they were getting into.
They had lots of offerings from the Tumbleweed Tiny House Company, who can supply everything from a bare trailer, a rough shell, a finished shell and a completed house, as well as building plans and much of the small house technology that would be needed for a comfortable home. The nice thing is, if you go to the course, they offer a good discount on the products they sell if you put a deposit down that weekend. All in all, it is a very worthwhile course, especially if you are serious about building a tiny home yourself.
Understanding the Living Building Challenge Materials Petal Workshop - Vancouver, BC
Apr. 6, 2016
This introduction to the Living Building Challenge 3.0 was hosted by the Vancouver office of Perkins+Will and sponsored by The Mohawk Group. Covering the material-related challenges of the Living Building Challenge, the first part of the presentation was wholly depressing. The amount of destruction and devastation that has happened to the environment due to the materials being produced on this planet is so widespread, it is hard to believe that we will recover from it. Interesting notes on the built environment are that indoor air is 2-5 times more toxic than outdoor air, due to contaminants in building materials. Also, HFRs (halogenated flame retardants) and Formaldehyde are very pervasive in building products and present in insulation - both good reasons to look at more natural building materials like hempcrete.
Luckily, there are a number of programs that are aimed at improving the products made for the built environment, such as the Declare Program, along with the International Well Building Institute and Handprinting. The Declare Program now has a list of 411 products, which give a comprehensive labeling of their ingredients for complete transparency.
This course was very well presented with interesting "real-life" commentary and information by Kathy and Max from Perkins+Will. It was well attended with about 80% female attendees, and with many different professions represented. There is still much ground to cover and many more people to be educated on what needs to be done to improve the situation.
First Canadian Hempcrete Book Published - Gabriola Island, BC
June 23, 2016
Canada's first official publication on hempcrete building is now available. I just received mine in the mail and am excited to read Hempcrete Construction - a the complete step-by-step guide!
Chris Magwood has been involved in the natural, sustainable and eco-building industry for nearly 20 years and is currently the co-founder and director of the Endeavour Centre for Innovative Building and Living in Peterborough, Ontario. He is an active international speaker and workshop instructor and has the experience of building more than 30 sustainable homes and buildings. This is one of at least 4 books he has written on making better buildings.
It is exciting to have a book from Canada join the ranks of other international hempcrete books, and begin to put Canada on the map in leading the effort towards lost-lasting, non-toxic and sustainable hempcrete structures.
Hempcrete on CBC Radio The Early Edition - Vancouver, BC
Nov. 29, 2016
Hempcrete Natural Builders CEO, Kim Brooks, was on the radio talking with Rick Cluff.
HNB are working on a modular home concept and Rick has a number of questions on how hempcrete works.
Click on the image to hear the interview. Alternatively, to read the information, you can click on the CBC article here.