The Department of Energy (DOE) has awarded Texas A&M University $3.47 million to support a project to 3D print hemp-based building materials known colloquially as hempcrete, with a focus on creating affordable housing.

The plan is to utilize the crop in environmentally sustainable engineering projects using 3D printing technology. It’s one of the latest examples of the federal government embracing the potential of the form of the cannabis plant that was legalized under the 2018 Farm Bill.

Funding is being made available through DOE’s Advanced Research Projects Agency-Energy (ARPA-E) Harnessing Emissions into Structures Taking Inputs from the Atmosphere (HESTIA) program.

As noted in a press release from A&M’s engineering department, hempcrete is made from a mix of hemp powder, fibers, lime and water. It’s considered to be a durable but lightweight alternative to traditional building materials.

“While production of conventional construction materials such as concrete requires large amounts of energy and releases large amounts of CO2 (carbon dioxide), hempcrete is a net carbon-negative material, which can provide major environmental benefits,” Petros Sideris, an assistant professor at the university who will serve as the project’s principal investigator, said.

“Hempcrete has excellent fire resistance and thermal insulating properties that can reduce heating and cooling energy demands. It is water-resistant and offers good acoustic properties,” he said. “The advancements of this project will contribute to the U.S. maintaining its worldwide leadership in advanced construction methods and infrastructure sustainability and resilient technologies.”

The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) also announced last year that it was awarding a Washington State-based company a $100,000 grant to support the development of sustainable bricks made from industrial hemp.

DOE is separately sponsoring a project to develop hemp fiber insulation that’s designed to be better for the environment and public health than conventional preparations are, the agency announced late last year.

Interest in the potential of hemp and its constituents has spread far and wide since the crop’s federal legalization.

For example, the Florida Agriculture Department on Tuesday announced eight winners from students grades 5-11 who submitted essays on innovative uses for hemp as part of an annual “Agricultural History and Creativity” contest. The contest stood out for its focus on the cannabis plant’s alternative, sustainable uses.

Meanwhile, House Appropriations Committee leaders have included multiple, related provisions in recent spending bill reports that encourage the exploration of hemp as an environmentally sustainable alternative to plastics. Rep. Dave Joyce (R-OH), a member of the panel and co-chair of the Congressional Cannabis Caucus, has been championing the issue, his office told Marijuana Moment.

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Photo courtesy of Brendan Cleak.

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