The premier wood substitute with the smallest ecological footprint of any lumber alternative, HempWood® is perfect for use as anything that wood can be used for.
By SEAN O'KEEFE
A LOT HAS CHANGED SINCE KERMIT THE FROG first explained the difficulties of being green. Jim Henson originally sang Kermit’s signature song on The Sesame Street Book & Record in 1970. That was right around the time America’s movement toward sustainability started being a thing, at least among a fringe of concerned radicals yet to be known as environmentalists. Less hippie than simply hopeful, in the song Bein' Green, Kermit begins by lamenting his hue, only to make an about-face after the crescendo as he realizes the wonderfulness of his complexation. While the frog’s willingness to say that simply being oneself can be a challenge is appreciated, it’s also easy to hear metaphors of many inferences. Like Kermit and sustainability, historically Cannabis has also been easily misunderstood.
“Likely, when people think of Cannabis, they think of weed. However, there are a thousand and one uses for Cannabis that have nothing to do with getting high,” says Greg Wilson, Founder of HempWood. Known by many names, Cannabis is commonly thought of as marijuana when the plant’s flowering buds are consumed as a drug, and hemp when the plant’s fibrous body is used as a raw material. The difference legally is that cannabis plants considered hemp contain 0.3 percent or less of THC, the component responsible for the plant’s effects on a person’s mental state when consumed.
“There are people in hemp talking about making cars or wings for airplanes and such. They have ideas, but not a product,” continues Wilson. “HempWood Natural Flooring is a real product, on the shelves, that is truly sustainable. It is just as beautiful and durable as any traditional hardwood floor, and any flooring professional can easily install it.”
"Creating a strand-woven, engineered lumber is not a simple process. After four to five months of growing and harvesting a semi-annual crop, the process of fabricating lumber from hemp relies on a delicate balance of nature, science and art."GREG WILSON
Wilson was born into a family of builders. Starting as a laborer during summer breaks at just 15, in one way or another, he’s never done anything else. During his college years, he studied building materials and did an internship in materials engineering for a wood flooring company. He then spent many years in the bamboo flooring industry, where a similar fibrous plant has been successful on a global scale.
“Whenever you are developing a new material, there is a lot of trial and error,” says Wilson of the years of R&D involved in realizing a product’s tangibility. “When the formula for success is fully refined it becomes a Standard Operating Procedure, which is translated into an algorithm. I helped write the algorithm that produced commercial-grade, strand-woven bamboo flooring and have since applied those lessons
Like bamboo and many other composite floors, creating a strand-woven, engineered lumber is not a simple process. After four to five months of growing and harvesting a semi-annual crop, the process of fabricating lumber from hemp relies on a delicate balance of nature, science and art.
“Using the Fibonacci sequence, our process mimics nature to bond the hemp fibers together,” says Wilson of the secret sauce in strand-woven, composite flooring. “We’re using full-length hemp stalks and soy-based glue to press 6 foot x 5.5 inch x 5.5 inch lumber blocks. We use two different cuts – open cut and rip cut – to produce either traditional grain-faced flooring or the against-grain look of OSB.”
HempWood Natural Flooring’s engineered format makes
it easy to install and it can be refinished up to four times.
HempWood has a Janka Hardness Rating of 2,200 poundfoot (lbf ft), which is 20 percent harder than American white oak and comes with a 25-year structural warranty.
As things have begun to take off, Wilson has partnered with
Aaron Rydell of Hemp Engineered Manufactured Products, a Colorado business in hemp-based production, fabrication and construction. After a 20-year career in helicopter aviation, logistics and maintenance, Rydell started growing industrial hemp for raw material purposes in 2015.
"Hemp’s ability to remove heavy metals, pesticides and other unwanted pollutants from soils without damaging the plant is amazing. Industrial hemp growing at Chernobyl and Fukushima is pulling radiation from the soil. So, it's like a super plant."AARON RYDELL
HEMP ENGINEERED MANUFACTURED PRODUCTS
During his many years in aviation, Rydell led flight logistics for a helicopter charter company that specialized in external loads including aerial harvesting. With long-term exposure to logging, Rydell has seen first-hand what wood production does to a forest. As an affiliate of HempWood Natural
Flooring, Rydell is a factory representative, stocks inventory in Colorado, and speaks eloquently about the product’s restorative benefits to the natural environment.
“HempWood is a turnkey engineered floor sold by the square foot. It installs tongue and groove and does great with stains and dyes,” says Rydell. “HempWood is everything a homeowner could expect from white oak, at about the same price point.”
While comparable to high-end hardwood flooring in aesthetics, durability and cost, HempWood distinguishes itself from wood-based products when architects, interior designers and homeowners factor sustainability into decision-making. As the world increasingly turns to nature and biomimicry for answers to climate change, more industries are looking for new kinds of raw materials. Industry-leading brands such as BMW and Target have already incorporated HempWood into recent eco-conscious retail spaces and showroom floors. Aside from being easily replenished, hemp is well-regarded for its ability to sequester carbon from the atmosphere.
CHRISTINA HALL, OF HGTV HOME RENOVATION SHOWS "CHRISTINA ON THE COAST" AND "FLIP OR FLOP," IS ENDORSING HEMPWOOD PRODUCTS.
The production of industrial hemp is carbon negative, meaning it absorbs more carbon during its growth than is emitted by the equipment used to harvest, process and transport it. Hemp can be grown without herbicides, pesticides or fungicides, and can be cultivated near surface water. As a cash crop, hemp rates in the top five for biodiversity friendliness, performing better than wheat, corn and many other staples. Research reveals that one hectare of industrial hemp can absorb 15 tons of C02 in a single crop cycle. Hemp’s rapid growth makes it one of the most efficient C02 to bio-mass conversion resources on the planet.
“Beyond carbon sequestration, one of the underrated benefits of growing hemp is the plant’s ability to recondition soil,” Rydell says on the topic of restorative processes. “Hemp’s ability to remove heavy metals, pesticides and other unwanted pollutants from soils without damaging the plant is amazing. Industrial hemp growing at Chernobyl and Fukushima is pulling radiation from the soil. So, it's like a super plant.”
As a building material, hemp has some significant benefits, especially in commercial buildings where embodied carbon is the measuring stick of success. The architectural community has long understood that buildings account for about 40 percent of humanity’s annual C02, which contributes significantly to global warming. Embodied carbon is a quantification of the total carbon emissions associated with the entirety of materials and construction processes required to get a building built and fully operational and through its natural lifecycle. This includes all carbon emissions associated with manufacturing, transporting, installing, maintaining and disposing of demolished building materials at the end of their life.
“HempWood is carbon negative,” says Wilson. “Our manufacturing facility was designed to be low impact. We use plant-based resin to press the blocks and we are only at the very beginning of what is possible from a manufacturing standpoint. If designers want to lower their carbon count, HempWood is an excellent finish material.”
Beyond HempWood’s capacity to contribute to the earth’s rejuvenation through carbon sequestration and soil reclamation, Wilson and Rydell are busy promoting the material’s beauty, durability and versatility to architects and interior designers.
“HempWood flooring can be installed in any home or commercial setting. It can be ordered natural, in our collection of custom colors, or site finished by others,” shares Wilson. HempWood’s website offers sample packs suited for architects, craftsmen and homeowners. In May, HempWood was delighted to announce an endorsement from HGTV personality, Christina Hall, of home renovation shows Christina On the Coast and Flip or Flop. The Christina’s Choice sample pack includes HempWood Natural Flooring samples in natural, ice and one color of the customer’s choice.
“HempWood Natural Flooring enters the market as a high-end, ready-to-install engineered floor, with ultra-low VOCs and no-added formaldehyde,” finishes Wilson. “We are working hard to raise awareness among architectural and interior design communities to get this material specified. Inquiries from homeowners, carpenters and distributors are welcome, as well via our website hempwood.com.”