A couple of years back in a post about an Asheville, N.C. home built from Hempcrete, a sustainable, earthquake-resistant material composed of water, lime, and industrial hemp, I ruffled a few feathers by making a couple of cheap Cheech and Chong jokes. My apologies. This time around, with the announcement that another Hempcrete home is planned to be built near Humbolt County Santa Barbara, I’ll behave myself and leave the “potshots” to Grist.

If given the go-ahead by Santa Barbara County officials, the 500-square-foot guest house would be California’s first Hempcrete structure. The building site itself is a rather dramatic one — near the ruins of Knapp’s Castle, a massive estate located high in the Santa Ynez Mountains that was completely destroyed by wildfires in 1940. The spot is now popular with hikers and photographers thanks to its stunning panoramic views. That's the jaw-dropping site pictured below. Cannabis-walled cabins aside, can you imagine waking up to that?

The future inhabitants of this new, modestly sized mountain retreat needn’t worry as much about wildfires as Hempcrete, in addition to being termite-, mold-, and dry rot-resistant, is impervious to fire. And as previously mentioned, the material, dubbed by Hempcrete home builder Hemp Technologies as the "Rolls Royce of thermal walling systems," stands up well against earthquakes and boasts excellent insulating properties. Plus, as explained to the Los Angeles Times by Hemp Technologies’ founders, Greg Flavell and David Madera, Hempcrete actually absorbs CO2 from the atmosphere, about 12 tons of it in this case.

A bit more on the nuts and bolts of Hempcrete from Times:
The principal material for the project is Hempcrete, made of the woody internal stem of the Cannabis sativa plant, which is processed into chips and mixed with a lime-based binder. That concoction is then sprayed on, poured into slabs or formed into blocks like concrete to create the shell of a building. Interior surfaces are plastered, and exterior surfaces are stuccoed.
And as some of you may already be well-aware, the federal and state governments haven’t quite gotten around to making it legal to farm industrial hemp in the U.S. — it can be imported, however — for various, complicated reasons which I won’t get into here. It's a damned shame, really, considering how hemp is such a versatile, durable, inexpensive, rapidly renewable, and no-pesticide plant that can be used to make a staggering array of items outside of building materials and clothing. And unless you tried, really, really, really hard, it’s pretty much impossible — okay, it is impossible — to get high off of the stuff as it contains just trace amounts of THC. You hear that potential arsonists?

More on this particular project and on industrial hemp as a viable building material over at the L.A. Times.

Via [L.A. Times]

Related stories on MNN:

Matt Hickman ( @mattyhick ) writes about design, architecture and the intersection between the natural world and the built environment.

Groovy green digs: California to get its first hemp house?
Super sustainable but maligned for the obvious reasons, industrial hemp may be making its building material debut in California.