British Columbia

Bowen Island company makes tiny homes made of hemp

It's the ultimate merger of hot housing trends: a tiny home made of hemp!

Hempcrete — a concrete made of hemp hurd, fibre and lime — is a renewable building material

A worker stands in front of a wall of hempcrete — concrete made of hemp hurd and fibres, lime, clay and about two per cent cement. (Hempcrete Natural Building Ltd.)

Tiny, eco-friendly hemp homes are the made-in-B.C. solution to the housing crisis, according to some advocates.

Kim Brooks, the CEO of Hempcrete Natural Building, along with her partner, Jayeson Hendryson, have been building two tiny homes made of hemp since spring.

The company uses hempcrete — a type of concrete made from hemp hurd, fibres, clay, lime and a bit of actual concrete.

"We mix it, pour it into forms and then plaster it with our special type of plaster and then colour it with natural pigments," she explained.

The Wales Institute for Sustainable Education Machynlleth, Powys, Wales is partially built of hempcrete. (International Hemp Building Symposium)

Hemp has a number of industrial uses — from fibres in ropes and textiles to paper and insulation.

The plant has been increasingly popular as a building material because it is considered eco-friendly, renewable and cheap to produce.

The main disadvantage is hempcrete is lighter than regular concrete and cannot be used on weight-bearing walls. It's often used in conjunction with more load-bearing materials like wood, steel or brick.

In addition, the production of hemp — which is in the same family as cannabis but has a much lower THC level — has been a contentious issue. It was banned from 1938 to 1998, but since then the industry has picked up, with crops grown across central and Western Canada.

Brooks has lived in a hemp home since the early 2000s and says the benefits are worth it.

"The biggest benefit for me has been not using any allergens or petrochemicals. My lungs are very happy and healthy," she said.

"It's also insect and rat resistant because they don't like the lime. In fact, it's deadly for them to eat it."

A hemp field in Ottawa. Hemp has been growing in popularity as a building material in conjunction with more load-bearing materials like wood or brick largely because it is considered ecofriendly and cheap to produce. (Hallie Cotnam/CBC)

Eco-friendly tiny homes

The company has helped build many hemp houses across Western Canada before turning to tiny homes.

"A couple of years ago in Northern Alberta, we had a client who wanted a very tiny house on skids ... that was a pretty cool idea."

Brooks said the tiny hemp homes could help with the affordable housing crunch here in British Columbia.

Many B.C. communities have looked to modular housing to increase the available housing stock and help shelter those experiencing homelessness.

A hemp tiny home, Brooks said, adds a sustainability component.

"Our local community embarked on a really major housing issue and the folks here were telling us to put our plan into action to address our local community."

The tiny homes are 14 by 24 feet (four by seven metres) which can be winched onto a truck.

With files from The Early Edition

To listen to the interview, click on the link labelled A tiny house made of hemp