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Hemp experts to convene in Ketchum

By Alejandra Buitrago | Mountain Express

Industrial hemp enthusiasts are coming to Ketchum this week for the first event in the U.S. dedicated to the education and expansion of the hemp industry, according to the event organizers. More than 170 attendees will hear from industry professionals, architects, builders, growers and industrial-hemp processors to hear the latest on technology, the industry, and how to create a more sustainable community using hemp.

Hempitecture co-founders Matthew Mead and Tommy Gibbons are spearheading this “first ever gather of its kind in the United States,” as an opportunity to bring together the best and brightest in the industrial-hemp industry. Attendees will discuss everything from the cultivation of hemp plants to “hempcrete” building strategies to what the future holds for the industry and how to advance building with hemp in the U.S., according to organizers.

Industrial hemp has been used as a building material for construction and insulation in France since the 1990s and has since spread around the world, from Canada to the U.K. The material, commonly known as hempcrete, is a bio-compost material made from the core of a hemp plant. The woody core is mixed with water and lime to create a mixture that can than be put into any framing and used as a non-toxic insulation. Hempcrete has a carbon-negative footprint, Mead and Gibbons said; the mixture absorbs carbon-dioxide exhaled by the building’s inhabitants. It is also resistant to pests, mold, bacteria and fire.  

The summit, scheduled for Oct. 24 and 25 at the Argyros Performing Arts Center, will feature a handful of keynote speakers and a field trip to tour four buildings in the area that were built using hemp.

Speakers include Alison Mears and Alex Sparrow.

Mears, a professor of architecture at the New School in New York City, will present academic research on hemp building and the possibilities for the U.S. market. Research was done at the Healthy Materials Lab at The New School—a research lab focused on optimizing health and transparency in affordable housing through eliminating toxins by transforming the way building materials are manufactured and supporting the creation of new materials, according to its website.

Sparrow is an internationally renowned hemp building expert who has completed a number of projects across the U.K. and beyond. Sparrow is also the author of “The Hempcrete Book,” a book that has helped hemp builders worldwide, according to the summit’s website.

The field trip will tour the first residential hemp building in Idaho, which is in Hailey, built by Blake Eagle in 2012. Attendees will then go to a project out Croy Canyon to see a panelized hempcrete tiny house and then out Trail Creek to Idaho Base Camp, where two buildings were insulated with hempcrete.

The event will also be the launch of the U.S. Hemp Building Association, a trade organization formed to accelerate hemp building adoption in the U.S.

Mead said Ketchum was chosen as the launch spot for several reasons—one because there are several hempcrete buildings in the area to showcase. Another reason is because industrial hemp is still illegal in Idaho, and by bringing an industrial-hemp summit to the state, Mead and Gibbons hope to create an opportunity to inform the public on the industry and the opportunities it holds.

Those interested in learning more about the summit can visit

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