Florida’s 1st Hemp House

Florida’s 1st Hemp House

In 2012 Florida’s first hempcrete structure was erected.  There are few hempcrete structures in America.  You can find a few built in Europe, but with America’s strict former rules against growing hemp, those kinds of structures are rare around these parts.

There are several different advantages to hempcrete. But there is little information of how a hempcrete structure can perform in Florida’s climate.

So….

A gentleman by the name of Robert Clayton and Build-con Services set out on a journey to build Florida’s first hempcrete structure in 2012. They wanted to build Florida’s 1st Hemp House as a test, an experiment to see how this type of structure can withstand Florida’s humidity and hurricanes. They monitored the building of The Florida Hemp House on hempcretehouse.coffeecup.com.

Robert Clayton in front of his finished hemp house!
Robert Clayton in front of his finished hemp house!

What is Hempcrete?

Hempcrete is a suitable and sustainable alternative to concrete. It is a bio composite made of the inner woody core of the hemp plant mixed with a lime-based binder. The core of the hemp plant has a high silica content that allows it to bind well with lime. The result of mixing these two ingredients together is a lightweight cementitious insulating material weighing about a 7th or 8th of the wight of concrete but is just as strong.

Benefits of Building with Hempcrete

  • Environmentally more friendly with less use of petrochemicals
  • Energy efficient
  • Low maintenance
  • Breathable material
  • Gains strength over time.
  • Exceptionally quiet from exterior and interior noise
  • Cost effective
  • Potential carbon neutral construction
  • Aesthetically pleasing with other materials (stone, wood, tile).
  • Thermal mass assists temperature control in low and high temperatures.
  • Insect and rat resistant.
  • Fireproof and earthquake resistant

The Site of the Florida Hemp House

Clayton and Build-con Services decided on Tarpon Springs for this Florida Hemp House.

The site was a 50 x 1000 residential lot in the center of the city.  The lot is 1560 SF and the home is three bedrooms, two baths, with a front porch and a stone trim. The site sits just off the main streets in the heart of Tarpon Springs and is near the Sponge Docks and Riverwalk tourist areas, a block from the Pinellas Trail, a 40-mile bicycle trail that circumnavigates the county. Only, a short walk downtown to shops and restaurants.

Hempcrete was used for the buildings flooring, insulation, roofing, and walls.

Hemp House in Tarpon Springs

Tarpon Springs enjoys a charming old-world style with its strong Greek roots.  They set out to build a 21st century house that fits the traditional qualities of the city. The used lime washes to paint the hempcrete to give it an “old world charm”.

“Strong and solid with enduring value.”

Tarpon Springs’ inner-city area needs development and the city recently completed a Community Redevelopment Plan in 2012. The hope for the Florida Hemp House was to lead to new developments in the Tarpon Springs area.

Hemp House Vs. Florida Hurricanes

Florida is a bit of a hurricane zone, even experiencing a “hurricane season” every year.  Tarpon Springs experienced a direct hit from a Category Three hurricane on October 25th, 1921.  Winds were up to 115 miles per hour. The site chosen for the Florida Hemp House is in Flood Zone A about eight blocks south of the sponge docks of the Anclote River.  Since the site is so susceptible to hurricanes structural requirements were necessary to be up to code. So, they were required to add an extra foot or so of fill to the building footprint to meet FEMA A-zone flood insurance requirements.

Hemp Construction and Sea Level Rising

Florida is a coastal state severely affected by sea level rise from global warming along a thousand miles of coastline. Florida spends four to five million dollars per mile to re-nourish its beaches lost to erosion. This re-nourishing process must be repeated every 10-15 years. This means that carbon negative construction is very important to preserve Florida’s environment.

Streets in Tarpon Springs are only about 6 feet above sea level. This is typical in most of Florida’s barrier islands, the keys, and many coastal areas of the state.  The State of Florida itself is barely above sea level.  Many climate change activists envision extremes of Florida being swallowed by the ocean soon.

I’m sure that Florida’s first hemp house is still standing. There isn’t much information about the outcome of this Hemp House Experiment. It would be interesting to see what the outcome is.  As soon as there is an update on this project we will be sure to post about it.

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