Affordable housing constructed with hemp-based building material is nearing completion in New Castle, Pennsylvania.
Project PA Hemp Home is the first full home renovation in the state using hempcrete and HempWood.
The nonprofit corporation behind the project is DON Enterprises, headquartered in New Castle. DON has grown from its core work in disability rights advocacy to become the second largest employer in Lawrence County and a force for economic development, employing over 1,000 people who provide a range of services from attendant care to construction.
This project demonstrates how we can strengthen the connection between our urban and rural communities, improve health and develop our local economies.
Pennsylvania has an incredible agricultural heritage that includes its important role in the history of hemp production. The Ag Department recognizes that we can become a national hemp production hub in this new age, and the department is working hard to achieve that.
Hempcrete, or hemplime, is a biocomposite nonstructural insulation material made by mixing hurd (the inner woody core of the hemp stalk), lime and water. It can be cast in place, spray cast or used in precast blocks and panels to replace traditional materials like vinyl siding, plastic sheathing, fiberglass insulation and drywall.
Hempcrete is nontoxic and does not off-gas toxins, so indoor air quality is much higher. With rapidly rising rates of asthma and other diseases, hempcrete is a healthy alternative. The material passes humidity from inside to the outside, and can reduce utility costs by 30% or more.
DON Enterprises is also working to open a HempWood manufacturing facility and a large-scale hemp decortication plant in western Pennsylvania, creating an industrial hemp production hub.
Decortication is the mechanical process by which hemp stalks are separated into long fibers called bast, and the inner woody core of the stalk, called hurd. These two commodities are used in a wide spectrum of end-uses from building materials, automotive components, clothing and plastics.
The combined facilities will create over 100 livable wage jobs and provide a sustainable crop alternative for over 200 local farmers to produce the required tonnage of raw material.