Project PA Hemp Home featured at national conference

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Project PA Hemp Home, nearing completion on New Castle’s East Side, was presented at the Third U.S. Hemp Building Summit in Austin, Texas last week.

Lori Daytner, vice president of program development at DON, addressed the summit, which was attended by 200 natural building professionals, hemp building materials producers and LEED professionals.

The project has a strong following because of interest in the research and testing Pennsylvania Housing Research Center will conduct on the structure’s thermal energy performance and the air quality testing Parsons Healthy Materials Lab (HML) will perform.

Typical petrochemical-based building materials used in modern construction can off-gas toxins which are ingested, inhaled, and absorbed and are thought to have a significant impact on the rising rates of asthma, cancer and other diseases.

The use of the hemp-based materials practically eliminates toxins from the home creating a much healthier environment.

Also of particular interest to the attendees was the use of HempWood flooring, which will be installed in the house.

The HempWood flooring was produced using industrial hemp fiber stalks grown by Michael McBride and Herm Cvetan of Enon Valley and Mount Jackson. Both farmers are participants in DON’s Hemp Test Acres Program.

“Using hemp grown just 15 minutes away from the house demonstrates that our PA agriculture can support us not only with food, but also with our housing,” Daytner said. “And in turn, we can support our friends and neighbors who raise this crop by using the materials made from it.

“Unfortunately, we still face a huge lack of knowledge that hemp is not marijuana. Hemp cannot get a person high. But we still get questions about that.”

The project, under construction by DON Enterprises, Inc. (and funded in part by the PA Department of Agriculture, is a demonstration of the potential for locally grown industrial hemp in building and for the health impacts of nontoxic, natural materials.

The house, a retrofit of an existing blighted structure, was designed by a Master’s of Architecture graduate student Meryl Smith of Parsons New School in New York through the collaboration between Parsons HML and DON.

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