Hemp – Oblivion or Renaissance

Hemp materials add unsurpassed quality to construction. Where is the stumbling block for their production

Hemp – Oblivion or Renaissance

Снимка: EconomyMagazine/Krassimir Svrakov

Автор: Tatyana Yavasheva

Often, the new is a well-forgotten old, and with the actively developing technologies, reviving something from the past can be the cause for a real revolution. The use of hemp has such a potential at a time when the construction industry is looking for innovative materials for comfort, low energy consumption and healthy living conditions.

Health or Fashion

The main idea of “green” construction is the optimal use of resources, the care for human health and the reduction of harmful effects on the environment. That is why the entry of natural materials used for the construction of houses back in the old days is now gaining popularity. Hemp bricks can find their good application, and some architects are trying to create such a fashionable niche in contemporary solutions, thus enabling manufacturers to show what they are capable of.

In Bulgaria and Around the Globe

Recently, Western designers and architects have been attracting high solvent demand not with buildings of metal, glass and innovative materials, but with the revival of old technology and the skilful use of traditions of old times in construction and furnishings, which offer not only comfort to the modern home and office. Several houses of hemp bricks are also part of the colour of the newest spa complex – Belchinski Izvor, which Glavbolgarstroy is building near Belchin village, not far from Sofia. We presented it in the last issue of Economy Magazine. These homes have a pleasant natural scent and recreate details of the atmosphere in which our ancestors lived. This is how the good old and the modern meet. Such houses are cool in the summer and do not need air conditioning, and in the winter, they are easily heated; in other words, they are cheaper to live in. However, these so-called hemp houses are built with imported bricks, which are too expensive. But why don’t we produce them in Bulgaria?

Advantages

First, let’s see how these eco-bricks are made and what their advantages are. Experts explain that they are made from industrial hemp, lime powder and a mixture of minerals. Industrial hemp has antistatic properties, it is characterized by very low thermal conductivity, and the mineral components provide mechanical strength and excellent thermal insulation properties. The end material is fire-resistant and extremely reliable for the construction of load-bearing walls, with no additional thermal insulation required. Thus, in hot and cold weather, the cost for achieving a good indoor temperature is low. At the same time, these bricks do not allow condensation to form on the walls, they do not allow the development of fungi and parasites, and thermal and acoustic comfort is guaranteed. Hemp bricks have a very long life, but at the end of their useful life, they can be recycled.

And Thermal Insulation

In addition to hemp bricks, hemp insulation is also being made in some countries and is available on the Bulgarian market. Its advantage is its excellent thermal and sound insulation properties, as well as its fire protection properties. What is more, it creates a healthier microclimate. Hemp insulation regulates the humidity of the premises and keeps moulds and harmful microorganisms that cause allergies and diseases away. It is widely used for insulation of roofs, floors, interior and exterior walls. Thus, this crop, used by our ancestors for centuries, becomes relevant again.

Brake

Hemp has all the qualities to be rediscovered as the old new material. In Bulgaria, there are prerequisites for the country to become a producer of industrial hemp products and to profit from it. But there is one stumbling block. Hemp is also known as smoke grass, marijuana, cannabis, joint... Yes, part of hemp contains psychoactive substances, and that is why, in 1925, a special international agreement banned it in many countries. Bulgaria is among them. Hemp is widely used for the production of medicines, fuels, plastics, clothing, food, paper, including banknotes... The list of possibilities is quite long. And despite its irreplaceable properties, humanity has sought substitutes. We say that we should not throw out the baby with the bathwater, but industrial hemp continues to be out of favour because of its “relative” – ​medical cannabis.

Can We See the Horizon

Much is known about this old agricultural crop and its varieties. But the business sector in Bulgaria does not dare to raise the issue of revising the topic of new applications of industrial hemp, which could give rise to a competitive industry in Bulgaria. Entrepreneurs are afraid of being branded as wanting to deal with drugs, and instead of opening up the horizons of promising productions, to only get into trouble.

Nearly a century after hemp entered the “black list”, is it time for it to get out of the list? Since 100 years were not enough for the industrial hemp to be replaced and completely forgotten... Regulation No. 1 on the conditions and the procedures for issuing permission for the cultivation of hemp (cannabis) varieties intended for fibre, fodder and crop seeds containing less than 0.2% by weight of Tetrahydrocannabinol, as determined by leaf mass, blossom and fruit ends was approved in March 2018. On 13 February, the European Parliament approved a resolution on the use of cannabis for medical purposes. Two steps that show a change in attitude towards hemp.

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