Engineers develop construction blocks made from Hemp
Similar to a normal concrete block.
A research team at the University of Nebraska Lincoln College of Engineering believes they discovered another "building block" to help meet the world's construction demands and one that's more environmentally friendly.
It's made out of hemp.
Marc Maguire, a Civil Engineering Ph.D. at the Durham School of Architectural Engineering and Construction said his block has nearly the strength of concrete, is half the weight and leaves essentially no carbon footprint.
"There's nothing like this in the world, as far as I know. This is the first load-bearing capable, hemp-based composite," Maguire said.
He teamed with teamed with Global Fiber Processing, a Nebraska-based hemp processor, to develop the blocks.
They're made of the woody interior of the hemp plant stalk mixed with a binding agent which has been patented.
"This product is so similar to a normal concrete block that we want to make it a one-to-one swap," Maguire said.
Maguire said tests show the hemp blocks are also more fire resistant.
"It's an incredibly resilient material. In that respect, it would garner a higher fire rating," Maguire said.
He said they will be doing a third round of testing over the next few weeks.
They are producing 500 blocks at a Omaha concrete block manufacturer and constructing a wall.
"We hope to have a product out, available to the public by next year," Maguire said.
Andrew Bish of Global Fiber Processing said their blocks could provide another option and one that is more environmentally friendly.
"You have a real win-win in the construction community," Bish said.
And it would be a green opportunity for Nebraska farmers.
Bish estimated it would take 260,000 acres of hemp in order to replace a billion pounds of concrete.
"It's going to open the marketplace up dramatically," Bish said.
Currently the cost of the hemp blocks are three times more than conventional concrete blocks.
But that price could come down drastically if production increases, according to Maguire.
"The number one cost is hemp. The hemp is the most expensive part of this," Maguire said.
"What we need is more farmers to grow more hemp," Maguire said.