November 2018 Newsletter

November 2018 Issue


A computer rendering of the design of the entry for the Solar Decathlon in Morocco presented by Monika Brümmer
Dear IHBA Members,
As any members who were present at the 8th International Hemp Building Symposium will know this years event was again a great success. With 55 delegates the gathering in Kampenhaut provided a wide range of subjects presented with great enthusiasm.
So to give a run down of the presentations and activities this year I will start with the Tuesday 16th. After an introduction by myself and Wolf Jordan we started a little ahead of schedule with Monica Brümmer of Cannabric who although must have been exhausted by her previous activities in the days before traveling to Belgium gave a detailed explanation of the project she has been working on in Morocco designing a unique structure based on ancient traditional Berber homes originally built with a Thatch covering a domed timber framework. Her modern approach was created as an entry to the Solar Decathlon Competition which will be held in Morocco for the first time next year. Her modern concept worked out with the help of her young team of mainly female students involved the small dome like shape made of curved Hempcrete segments with Solar panels mounted on the exterior surface. Interior details were drawn up with considerations to the modesty of the women occupants of the building taken into account. This entailed creating a private space for women to occupy during visits by strangers to the family. 
I mention her previous activities prior to arriving in Belgium as she had been working in Somalia which entailed having to stay in a heavily guarded enclave in Mogadishu shared by the Army, International NGO’s and assorted other dodgy groups  and having to sleep in an uncomfortable converted shipping container. It was at the invitation of a group who attended the 7th Symposium in Montreal that Monika was there as part of a plan to attempt to establish Hemp in some manner in Somalia, far from an easy task!
Our next speaker was also highlighting the use of Hemp Building materials in an Arid environment and as a counterpoint to Morocco this time in Israel. Yakob Florentine was a previous delegate at our 4th event in Wales and his professor Dr David Pearlmutter attended our 6th event in Italy. Yakob detailed how he had identified the mix he intended to test in the Israeli environment and went on the explain how he went about devising the tests he carried out to evaluate the materials behavior in the dry condition in his country.
Our programme had listed Liam Donohoe fellow IHBA director up next but his travel plans were delayed by wrong turns being taken by his Taxi driver and it just so happened that Noora Norokyto had said to me before the event started that she had a presentation she could give if needed. I thought it would be difficult to squeeze her into the schedule but it worked out perfectly and Noora’s presentation was a great addition to our morning. 
Noora gave a broad rundown on the activities in Finland concerning the development of Hemp Building there and highlighted the ability of Finland to grow above average yields of hemp due to the long summer daylight at that latitude. This is something I have mentioned in previous newsletters and something that tends to go against most peoples conceptions of such northern regions. The use of winter retting was also something touched on the next day by Piotr in Poland. Noora no longer works for Turku University but has set up her own Hemp Building company and has started the Finnish Hemp Association.
Liam did get to the Hof in time to give his presentation after Noora and he used many aspects of the TEDX talk he gave previously, which can be seen here:
Liam and I are working on his Masters degree in Dublin Institute of Technology on Classifying Hempcrete and he gave an update on his progress.
After the break we had Pam Bosch give us an explanation of the trials and tribulations of getting her plans for a Hempcrete house, retro fit and extension past the local regulatory authorities in Washington State which as she explained was not an easy task. It reflected how frustrating it is to have to deal with unimaginative officials who can only be seen to be being as awkward as they can when it comes to accepting evidence from other regions and regulatory bodies. Eventually she did get past the hurdles and we saw from the presentation on Wednesday by Mattie how that was working out.
Finally we had Xavier Belis who was standing in for Jean Baptiste De Mahieu from ISOHEMP who give us a presentation of the fantastic work they are doing with their Hempcrete brick system. It so happened that the previous day Wolf Jordan had taken my wife Aia and I together with Noora and Dhiraj and Nivedita of S.H.I.V. Nepal to visit their factory in nearby Fernelmont. We were given a fascinating tour of the factory and display area which helped me assist Xavier explain how the system worked with the variety of products they manufacture there. They have now added a detail allowing for concrete posts and beams to be incorporated into the structures by creating holes in the blocks which when aligned are filled with a steel frame and concrete  and joined to horizontal ‘U’ shaped lintel beams which are pre-filled with steel and concrete to provide either lintels above windows and doors or used as a continuous layer to provide support for floors. They also showed us some of the projects the products have been used in recently, the most remarkable being the offices of a Concrete company which was both ironic and wonderful at the same time!.
Presenters at the 8th International Hemp Building Symposium October 2018
After the Lunch break we traveled by bus to our site visit, which this year was to an unusual building just near to Antwerp.
Edegem is located  just South of Antwerp and the site of one of the defensive Forts built around the city as part of a defensive ring of structures known as the National Redoubt. There are 8 Forts built in a curve to the South of the city and the site of our Hemp Building was within the location known as Fort 5.
There were several parts of the original structures still standing but what we went to see was inside one of the old equipment stores. There to greet us when we all arrived was Mathias of Het Leemniscaathe was one of the Belgian delegation that had attended one of my Hemp Building Courses many years ago here in Ireland. As the main contractor on the project it was very interesting to hear his opinion on the process and really good to hear his obvious pride in the resulting work. The building we had come to see was an Ecological Education Centre built from exposed Hempcrete with large arches on each side and divided internally with more arch structures made from local un-fired clay bricks. The ceiling was of particular interest as it was made from a layer of 50 cm of Hempcrete cast in place and the shuttering removed to reveal a Hempcrete surface above us. As can be seen from the pictures it was an impressive building. The concept for the building was explained in more detail by the Architect Ken de Cooman on the Wednesday.
It was planned to have a tour of the Hof or Castle which was the venue for our event but in reality it was too small as space to have all the delegates fit into it and added to that it was the private living quarters of Nico Swinnen and his family but my wife and I were lucky to be taken around the renovated Castle by Nico and his wife and were shown the room where, many years before Charlemagne had stayed the night. 
The Eco Education Centre at Edegem the site visit for the 8th symposium
The second day of presentations began with Wolf Jordan giving an overview of his knowledge on how binders work and how he went about creating his own version of a Hempcrete binder which he is supplying to a growing number of projects both in Belgium and the wider world. He also gave us a detailed story of a building that was erected in a woodland which was obviously dear to his concept of what an eco-building should look like. The oval structure was encased in Hempcrete and had also used the material in the roof and walls and was clad with hand cut shingles. This was originally the project we were going to visit for the Symposium but I think it would have been difficult for us all to have got into what would have been a muddy woodland and a small space.
Next up we had Piotr Jastrzębski from Poland who gave us a comprehensive description of the activities of his company Podlaskie Kanopie. Piotr has been a delegate at several IHBA symposiums in the past and I particularly remember him and his partners in the early days of their venture coming to visit the Hanffasser factory during the 5th Symposium where they were very interested in the details of the processing machinery. They obviously put this knowledge to good use and have built a unit with great potential. For me some of the most important parts of Piotrs’ presentation where his descriptions of the problems they have had to overcome, especially when they chose to harvest the straw in the Springtime after winter retting had be achieved, as was the case in Finland. The dry straw caused the harvester to catch on fire! something that might have put other more nervous entrepreneurs off entirely. The other difficulty they had to overcome was a freak Hail storm which as the pictures in his presentation showed us nearly destroyed the crop, however luckily the Hemp managed to survive the damage and continued growing and reached a sufficient maturity to be harvested. Above all, this was another example of how useful Hemp as a crop can be and how we might utilise it in the coming years of climate change.
Serbia was our next port of call with Igor Bogdanovic leading us through the developments in his country. I met Igor at the hemp Building Course I led with Andrius Visnevski at Obelisk Farm in Latvia. His dynamism impressed me then and so I asked him to come to tell us about the decortication equipment he had been developing. He did not disappoint us and showed us the variety of machines he has been working on and also told about the first Hemp Building project in Serbia. He told me after the event that he had sold one of his machines to Monika Brümmer.
To complete the section of the presentations focusing on decortication and Hemp production we had Pierre Amadieu give us a reminder of how the processing of hemp was perfected in France and how he has been continuing to work on small scale equipment. Pierre is one of the few people to my mind that really understands the importance of adding value to all the materials obtainable from the hemp plant. As we are struggling to continue our work with Hemp fibres whilst most of the investment goes towards CBD he has been steadfastly working on how we might process the long and short fibres to add to the value of the crop. Having been formally an Organic Hemp farmer he understands more than most the need to add value to the crop for those who need it most. the farmers, because despite all those talking about the expensive extraction of CBD or how Block chain technology is going to be our saviour, without the Farmers we have nothing to begin with.
Ken de Cooman was next on the programme and he is a young architect with a vital approach to his work in these times in that he see how everything is connected and that local materials with a low carbon footprint are very important. During his presentation he included the story of the building we had visited the day before and how he was able to use the construction to educate young volunteers on the importance of these ideas and how the casting of the Clay blocks had proved a useful activity in this regard.
Another Belgian Architect Peter Vos came to tell us what he has been doing with Hemp materials since he took part in one of my courses at my home here in Ireland. It was quite wonderful to see how he has taken that bit of knowledge and put it to such good use. Amongst the projects he told us about, two stood out. The first was a renovation of an old brick building that survived a fire that destroyed both internal floors of one section of the building but was prevented from spreading to the main part of the structure by a Hempcrete wall. The other significant story was about a small Bamboo framed hut with decking and conical roof that he had built in his back garden and covered with a layer of Hempcrete and simply plastered it over with lime and sand. That this was enough to make the building waterproof was quite amazing and impressed many of the delegates.
Our next two presentations illustrated how Hemp used in construction can do more than just create a shelter but can also help build communities.
Henry Valles was another person who had discovered Hemp as a building material at one of my courses, this time the one I held in Colorado in the USA. Henry continued his education by also working on another structure in Marfa Texas. Henry has previously worked in the realty industry or as others might term it the Real Estate or Property  market and so he has a knowledge about valuing a house and could see how the quality of a Hempcrete structure far exceeded what was normally being built in the US. He also saw how the production  of hemp was essential to be able to do that and so helped start the Texas chapter of the Hemp Industries Association. He continued his learning programme working and visiting several other courses and projects in Ashville N.C. and Bellingham WA before getting involved with the Community First Village in his home town of Austin Texas where he went on the help build the first Hemp Tiny Home to show what Hemp Building could do for the potential residents of the Village. The Community First Village is a 27-acre master-planned community that will provide affordable, sustainable housing and a supportive community for the disabled and disadvantaged in the area and has as it’s symbol the Loaves and Fishes of the biblical story.
Some of the presenters on DAY 2
The second of our community focused stories came from Nepal. Here Dhiraj Shah and his wife Nivedita have achieved an amazing amount in a short time. I am very pleased to have been able to start them off on their journey when I went to Nepal to investigate how Hemp might be able to address initially the destruction of the Earthquake in 2015. Since my visit where we started to process wild cannabis grown in the West of the mountainous nation and do some initial testing and building with Hempcrete made from this wild material and some local and imported binders Dhiraj and Nivedita have gone on to expand and grow their activities to include building many other structures including Hospital extensions, Montessori School , Farm houses, Weaving workshop and even teaching the most disadvantaged people how to build their own homes especially some of the women from the Dalit community who are frankly the hardest of workers in the region. Nivedita has also expanded her original activity of working with Women’s rights issues to include developing the Hemp textile sector of their business and they have both also been working on creating Hemp based medicinal products which are being enthusiastically promoted by both their fathers who are esteemed surgeons in India and Nepal.
After the Lunch break we were given an insight as to how Matthew Mead has enlarged his experience of building with Hemp starting with his first project in Idaho he went on the become the main contractor on the Highland Hemp House in Bellingham WA home of Pam Bosch who gave us the story of the struggles with regulators the previous day. Mattie and his partners in Hempitecture have looked at the build process and made their own improvements and additions to the equipment used on such projects and I hope they will be able to expand their activities into the future.
We always hope to be able to introduce new concepts and materials to delegates at our events and the next presenter did exactly that. Carl Martel is one of those people who are always looking to discover or uncover new potentials to products or materials and has been involved in the past with Hemp foods but this time he put his engineering expertise to work on a fascinating concept, that of turning a hemp House into a battery!!! Many of us might be aware of how renewable energy is limited by the ability to store the power produced infrequently then to be used when the demand is there or more constantly. Carl’s idea is to use the intricate structure of Hemp hurds and to turn them into carbonised versions to replicate the qualities of Graphene. His experiments have produced small test samples of the material and managed to hold a decent amount of electrical energy to prove that the concept is far more than just an idea. The delegates from the ENTPE who were present lost no time in requesting that they expand his research at their school in Lyon. The potential of this idea converted to Hemp charcoal bricks that could be used to store the energy produced by solar panels or wind turbines for a Hemp home is enormous.
The planned Trauma Hospital to be built with Hemp in Janakpur Nepal
From Canada to the UK we came to Alex Sparrow who introduced more than an element of humour into the proceedings. With a surname like Sparrow it was with a glint in his eye that he introduced us to a concept he had recently discovered in a book he had been reading. ‘BE MORE PIRATE’ was a statement that rang true to him as he explained how the history of the ‘golden age of Piracy’ roughly dating between 1690 and 1730 was one of unrecognized social revolution the likes of which we are still fighting today. These outlaws had created, if only briefly, a society of equal rights for race, gender and economics that was worth remembering. There was no discrimination against colour or women or gays in the pirate society and the fact that they would haul the captain of any captured ship in front of the crew to ask if they had been a ‘good’ captain or not would result in either reward or being castaway as Jack Sparrow had been in the Hollywood version we might be familiar with today. This piratical approach was of course continued by the Pirate Radio stations and such online services as Pirate Bay both of which also went on to become adopted by the mainstream.
His referral to this Pirate approach was inspired by the need for those of us using Hemp as a building material to find ways around the monopolistic hurdles that corporations had attempted to put in our way to prevent smaller players creating suitable and approved products. Rather than to have to use only products that had the added large expense of certification in their own right Alex suggested using the specifications of each material used in the mix as this was also acceptable to most regulatory bodies. He also mentioned his recent contributions to the promotion of Hemp Building in the UK with appearances on both the TV and in front of esteemed panels of experts at Chatham House the international affairs think tank.
The educational and promotional activities of two more groups ended our event. First from the Netherlands we heard from Rens Borgers and how his group ECOBOUWSALLAND had been working to promote the technology in the Netherlands partnering with Dunagro and others. He showed us a map of the many projects already completed in the country and we watched part of a video of a Dutch TV segment featuring a modern Hemp Home.
Hildi Vandameersch of Belgian group WOONDER completed our presentations by highlighting the many aspects of the system and materials they have been promoting since she attended our 4th event in Wales. Hildi helped us arrange the visit to Edegem and is very knowledgeable about the situation in Belgium and from the pictures she showed us she also knows how to get her hands dirty something that always impresses me.
Delegates of the 8th International Hemp Building Symposium 2018
The official logo for the conference in Vienna December 8-9 2018
In closing the event I had to say something about my involvement with these events. As i have mentioned at previous events every Symposium is quite stressful for me. The planning of the programme is not hard as it is a bit like planning a party or creating a playlist as a D.J. something I am quite happy doing, however the promotional aspects of attempting to reach everyone you hope might be interested and getting little response at times is both exhausting and exasperating. We have never used the early bird ticket technique and maybe we should but this would also create more work on website buttons and emails to encourage potential delegates to book early. The stress is really in those final weeks before the event when you as organiser are never sure whether enough people will book a place and also when you have near to a final number and you feel that there should be far more people interested in this amazing technology you are promoting. In the end we always have a wonderful event as we did this time round and i am reassured by the fantastic response i get from those who do make the trip to attend. I know our events have a unique quality and our Association is doing very valuable work but i feel we need to concentrate at the moment on achieving a greater extent of recognition from policy makers for what we have achieved and what we can offer.
To this end the IHBA will be attending the Cannabis Policy Conference in Vienna next month details here 
There we hope to be able to show how the use of hemp materials in construction can seriously address the U.N. Sustainability Goals and to get Cannabis taken off the list of prohibited Narcotic Drugs. Anyone who knows anything about the subject of sustainability knows that Hemp, especially building with it, can not only address them but provide a definite solution to solving the issues which the U.N. has attempted to identify. We are also hoping to be recognized for the work we are doing in promoting the system especially regarding sustainability issues. Maybe we might win a Cannabusiness award??!!
The demonstration structure built by Ekolution in Lund Sweden
On to other news from around the world. In Sweden recently Rene Loren and his crew at Ekolution have, with my help, erected a sample Hemp Building at a local government site in the city of Lund. They are hoping that it will attract positive reactions and that it will lead to larger projects st the site which is intended for future administrative buildings.
Meanwhile as a Consultant in my personal employment I have been deluged with questions about creating Hemp Processing and Manufacturing facilities and though many of these teams are surprised when they learn they might have to pay for this knowledge it is encouraging to hear that CBD is not the only use the Cannabis plant can be put to these day. I am not saying that the medicinal use of whatever extracts are obtained from the plant don’t have a wide range of uses and that they can bring immense relief from debilitating illnesses especially those in children which can be very distressing for the parents, but the reasons behind the efforts to both regulate and then control this medicine can turn the phrase ‘we are investing huge sums of money into helping sick children” (as was put to me by John Hobson of GW Pharma) into “We are investing huge sums of money to profit from sick children.!!!” So I will campaign for not the controlled Pharma industry model where doctors have to be able to prescribe some expensive approved medicine but rather the easy availability of any Cannabis extract available at the pharmacy or the wholefood shop without prescription and added to that, the ability of anyone to grow that herbal medicine for themselves or their friends and neighbors without the interference of governments or law enforcement.
But i am a dreamer and that is probably a way off in the future but I am a Pirate at heart and so “the law is there for the guidance of the wise and the blind obedience of fools ” sums up my approach sometimes. This phrase, or a version of it, is attributed to Harry Day a WW1 flying ace, which seeing as this is the centenary of the end of that horrific period of human history is a fitting end to this Newsletter.
Best wishes
Steve Allin
Kathmandu where Hemp has been used for thousands of years.
The first Asian Hemp Summit will take place in Kathmandu on the 1-2 February  2019
The IHBA is supporting this event and will be presenting our work there.

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