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First public hemp building in the U.S. opens in Idaho

By Devan Kaney, KBOI | Published on

KETCHUM, Idaho (KBOI) — It began when 26-year-old Mattie Mead discovered that hemp could be used as a building material his senior year of college.

“I looked to natural materials to create more insulating, more efficient, and less energy intensive homes," Mead said. "And through that study Hempcrete stood out to me as above and beyond one of the greatest options for creating a building that is not just energy efficient but is also healthy.”

Hemp is a carbon-negative, fire resistant, rot resistant, pest resistant, and mold resistant building material.

“So in essence our building and our walls are carbon sinks – they take carbon dioxide out of the atmosphere. Whereas most other building products are carbon positive – they put out more carbon dioxide than they absorb,” Mead said.

Hempcrete walls are also entirely self-regulating.

“Hempcrete lends to a breathing wall so it can mitigate moisture on a very small scale and balance pressure differentials based on the humidity within your indoor air climate and the outdoors,” Mead said.

Mead’s company, Hempitecture, partnered with Idaho BaseCamp, a Ketchum-based non-profit. Together, they designed and built the United States’ first public use hemp building in Ketchum, Idaho.

The space – named the Borah Basin Building – is made of Hempcrete along with recycled and renewable materials. Things that would have otherwise gone to a landfill.

“There’s something that’s remarkably inspiring about being 45 minutes from the nearest town and being able to be sheltered, warm, comfortable, have facilities to use, and to have a space to connect with themselves and the natural environment around them,” said Mead.

The project took three years to complete and was financed largely by grassroots funding and fundraising.

“We raised over 27,000 dollars on Kickstarter to buy all the hemp material for the walls.”

Mead says the entire process was a community effort.

“I cannot take sole credit for this building project because there were a lot of people who were so instrumental in the construction of this building. So to be a part of a community experience like that in Idaho was really special.”

And now after years of planning and hard work, the first ever public hemp building is open right here in Idaho.

As for the future of Hempitecture – Mead continues to work on hemp-made homes around the Northwest.

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