Reduce Embodied Carbon With Hemp Insulation Batts From NatureFibres

CC BY 2.0. Naturfibre hemp insulation/ Lloyd Alter

They should rename the town of Asbestos after this stuff.

According to the CBC, the town of Asbestos, Quebec, is changing its name. "There is really a negative perception around asbestos," Mayor Hugues Grimard told CBC News, referring to the widely banned mineral that was mined there for more than a century."We have lost businesses that don't want to establish themselves here because of the name." Even Twitter wondered:

I think they should rename the town Le Chanvre, French for hemp. Like asbestos, it is a locally made insulating product; however, the hemp insulation made by NatureFibres is totally healthy and doesn't pose any kind of health risk. Unlike asbestos, natural plant-based products that sequester carbon are the future of green building.

The cellular structure of this natural fiber, diffusion-open to water vapor, offers hygrometric regulation properties to the building envelope. Breathable, it helps regulate moisture build-up from varying outdoor and indoor temperatures. The interior climate and humidity levels of your rooms are optimized. Hemp absorbs a large quantity of CO2 during its growth stage by photosynthesis; it contributes to diminishing greenhouse gases.

It really pushes all of our TreeHugger buttons. Being plant-based, it stores carbon instead of emitting it, like our favorite insulating material, cork. But this may be a lot more affordable; according to ecohome,

5.5" batts for a standard 2x6 wall currently cost $1.90 per square foot and 3.5" batts for 2x4 stud bays cost $1.35 per square foot. "Our prices per square foot fall right between the cost of mineral wool and polystyrene panels," said the director of Nature Fibers.

Unlike cork, this could be scaled up quickly. James Wilson of BuildingGreen has written:

Because it is so easy to grow a lot of hemp quickly, it has the potential to be a very low-cost source of material. Nearly every part of the hemp plant can be used for something, and many hemp products—besides being highly durable and having a long lifespan—can, at end-of-life, be easily recycled, composted, or incinerated to produce biomass energy.

Outside of a bit of polyester binder, The NatureFibre insulation is completely natural. It has an equivalent R-value to fibreglass batts, with a 5.5 inch batt delivering R-20.

The inventor of Naturfibre

Sébastien Bélec on the left/ Lloyd Alter/CC BY 2.0

Sébastien Bélec has been working with industrial hemp since 2006, but opened a matting plant in 2017. After removing the valuable hemp oil and cake, they separate the fiber from the woody core. Then they can transform the fiber into "matted" products like insulation. The company also produces ceiling tiles, acoustic panels and Naturhemp blocks.

For decades, the hemp industry was hampered because it was illegal to grow in the United States, even though it is does not have an effect on humans. It had a bad reputation. But that's over now, and hemp products are legal throughout North America, and we need a lot more of this.

The world is changing; we have to rapidly change the way we build, and convert to regenerative materials that store carbon. Hemp insulation is one of those materials. What better way to express that change than to rename the town of Asbestos to Le Chanvre?