Hempcrete: Alberta company uses hemp to build tiny homes

Christina Goodvin uses fibrous geothermal hempcrete blocks to insulate her tiny homes. (Submitted by Christina Goodvin - image credit)
Christina Goodvin uses fibrous geothermal hempcrete blocks to insulate her tiny homes. (Submitted by Christina Goodvin - image credit)

An Alberta-based company is capitalizing on a budding hemp industry by turning the versatile plant into a main ingredient in the construction of tiny homes.

Christina Goodvin, owner of tiny homes and greenhouse design firm Goodvin Designs, uses hempcrete — a mixture of wood hemp shafts, a lime-based binder and water — as wall insulation in her tiny homes. Once it's set, the fibrous blocks can be placed inside dry wall, under floors or beneath a roof.

"It's basically a way to manage moisture in the walls," she told CBC's Edmonton AM on Thursday.

"It's great for any extreme climate actually, so in our northern climate, it's a great alternative."

She said the conventional way of building is flammable, easily destroyed and creates a lot of waste.

The greener, fire-resistant hempcrete is hydrothermal, Goodvin said, absorbing excessive moisture when conditions are humid and releasing moisture when dry.

"What you have now is a controlled environment. It's very comfortable," she said.

"One of the properties of hemp is, it's inherently anti-microbial, antibacterial, so it will absorb smells," she said, adding it prevents mold.

Goodvin is hosting a workshop on Saturday and Sunday about the basics of using hempcrete as an infill, from framing to finish for code-approved builds.

A tiny home will be framed and ready for the workshop. Participants will learn how to form, mix, and fill walls with hempcrete.

"You can actually do this yourself if that's something you want to do, or you can get a crowd of friends together and do that, too," she said.

Hempcrete costs more than conventional insulation since processing hemp is expensive, Goodvin said.

"If you do it right, do you have a healthy indoor environment, you have a wall system that performs with you and feels more comfortable and doesn't use as much energy," she said.

WATCH: This Airdrie-based company is also part of Alberta's growing hempcrete industry

Goodvin took an interest in hemp after moving from Vancouver Island to a farm in Wabamun, Alta., with her two sons.

"When I moved out here, I started looking around to see what was local and available, and I stumbled over hemp, which I thought was quite astonishing," she said.

"I wanted to see what I could use out here… the more I dug in, the more fascinated I got. And I started realizing this cousin of cannabis was quite versatile and amazing."