Hemp partnering boosts green building benefits

A recent teleconference officially announced an industrial hemp partnership between the District of 100 Mile House and The Alternate Village at the University of Manitoba (U of M).

The announcement follows an earlier meeting held in Winnipeg where district and The Alternate Village representatives explored potential opportunities for working together to develop and demonstrate hemp-based products for green-building applications.

At the 100 Mile meeting, district attendees included administrator Roy Scott, planner Joanne Doddridge and Coun. Mel Torgerson. 100 Mile House Industrial Hemp Pilot Project student co-ordinator Robin Diether and steering committee members Garry Babcock, Jim Dunsmuir and Ken Meville joined them.

Said Douglas Buchanan, acting dean of engineering: “On behalf of the university and the faculty of engineering, we are very pleased and are fully supportive of these types of ventures between business, public funding and R&D [research and development].”

100 Mile House has been looking toward much-needed economic diversification for some time now, explained Torgerson, and the hemp project will allow two avenues of opportunity, namely the green-building industry and industrial-hemp processing.

“With the partnering of the university, we’ll be much further ahead and, hopefully, we can advance this project. I think we are [currently] in the seventh year and now would be the prime time to move forward.”

Attending the meeting remotely were Industrial Hemp Pilot Project manager Erik Eising, industrial hemp producer group chair David Zirnhelt as well as university representatives, Buchanan and Kris Dick, associate professor of biosystems engineering and director of The Alternate Village.

The two groups will share research information and demonstration methods regarding sustainable building technology, Dick says, which will include results from a test building that will be constructed at The Alternate Village.

They also discussed how the non-structural walls of the test building would be constructed of hempcrete, a product made by combining the hemp hurd – the part of the plant left once the fibre is removed – with a binder.

Eising explained that after its extensive efforts to research a variety of related information, and with no hemp-fibre processors located in the United States and only a few minor operations in Canada, the District of 100 Mile House has now branded itself as the Canadian knowledge centre for industrial hemp fibre processing.

“With all the activities that we have undertaken, we have an extensive network, not only in B.C. and [elsewhere] in Western Canada but also including Eastern Canada and stretching out into Asia and Europe,” said Eising.

The green building opportunities of industrial hemp have already been put into practical use in several houses in Canada, including one on Saltspring Island, Eising said, adding there is a huge market in the U.S. to tap into.

The 100 Mile House Industrial Hemp Pilot Project has a Green Building symposium slated for this fall, during which various practical and sustainable aspects and potential uses will be explored and demonstrated.