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U of I partners with Idaho company for research on hemp insulation

Hemp research
Posted at 4:41 PM, Aug 18, 2022

BOISE, Idaho — A partnership between the University of Idaho and a local company Hempitecture is looking to turn the world a little greener by using hemp as an environmentally friendly building material.

Home insulation made out of hemp is what the University of Idaho's Boise-based Integrated Design Lab is testing right now using a $200,000 state grant to research and compare typical insulation materials to hemp insulation created by Idaho-based company Hempitecture.

“Hemp itself is just kind of an interesting material, people we know make jokes about it but it’s a really good product,” graduate student Isabelle Boicourt said. “If you’ve ever come into contact with fiberglass it’s super irritating on your skin just to put it into your walls but it's also toxic to breathe in. It performs really well, which is why we use it but it's not good for you.”

“Moscow is focusing on the flame resistance, down here in Boise we’re looking at the thermal resistance, so how well it's going to insulate a building," Interim Director of U of I's Integrated Design Lab Damon Woods said.

An attempt at a greener building material option while maintaining a minimal carbon footprint during production.

“They call it a low carbon material. It has a lower embodied energy, meaning it takes less carbon to produce because you are growing it. Plants breathe CO2 and that gets trapped in the stocks, and that gets trapped within the walls but we need to make sure that not only are we producing a product that’s green or sustainable or low carbon, but one that performs just as well.”

Samples are sent over from Ketchum to Boise with different amounts of plastic in it and chemicals on it.

Hemp insulation

“They look like this and then we cut those into sizes that fit our machine," Boicourt said. "These are two sensors and you put in what temperature you want and then the top and the bottom change temperature and then the sensors inside calculate the change in temperature of the material.”

So it's determining how the products handle different temperatures

Hemp insulation

“Hemp has not as good as an R-value usually as something synthetic like mineral fiber or fiberglass, but it's not toxic for you. You can touch it with your hands, it doesn’t hurt you you can lay on it if you wanted to its not bad to breathe in, it’s a plant," Boicourt said.

Together, U of I and Hempitecture hope to have an Idaho-local product that will save home builders money and help the environment.

“It's exciting for students to explore these new materials where we’re growing and literally pulling carbon out of the air and also a material that’s going to keep Idaho homeowners comfortable and safe over the long term," Woods said.