The first thing that comes to mind when you hear hemp is probably CBD-infused products or its sister plant, marijuana.
But this versatile plant is now being used to create the most sustainable, safest and most energy-efficient house possible. Dubbed the ‘Harmless Home,’ the walls are constructed from blocks of compressed hemp, lime and water. These blocks are lighter, easier to install, more resilient to severe weather and twice as strong as concrete. And the benefits don’t stop there.
“Because hemp sequesters carbon as it grows on the farm and stores it in its biomass, each house built with the block will have a zero-low carbon footprint provided at a much cheaper environmental and monetary cost than of concrete,” says Randy Osei, one of the founders of the company that is leading the charge in green construction in Canada – Atlas 365 Inc.
Osei, who also runs successful marketing firm Rozaay Management, started Atlas 365 with his friend, Akeem Gardner. After earning a law degree from the UK, Gardner returned to Canada with his sights set on community impact. Initially, the two decided to try and leverage athletes to educate the public about responsible use and the legalization of marijuana, launching Atlas 365 as a subsidiary of Rozaay Management.
“Over time and with further research, we learned that our impact could be even greater than we originally imagined. We learned about the hemp plant and all its amazing uses, how it could primarily be used as an agent for sustainability and a weapon in the fight against climate change,” explained Orsei.
The duo received their license to grow industrial hemp in March of 2018 and got to work right away. The first Harmless Home was put up on Victoria Island – you can follow the homeowners’ journey on their Facebook page – and there are plans to expand into Ontario next.
The company is ahead of the game, both in terms of technology and regulations. 75% of annual global greenhouse gas emissions are as a result of the urban built environment, with buildings alone accounting for 39%. In Canada, residential, commercial and industrial buildings account for 17% of greenhouse gas emissions. As a result, the Royal Architectural Institute of Canada created the 2030 Challenge and proposed that all new buildings be carbon neutral by 2030.
As Osei explained, “we have continued to learn more about the UN Sustainable Development Goals and we have made a number of these goals our metrics for success. We want to continue to pair profit with purpose and help the world become a better place.”
And the duo aren’t content with just overhauling the construction industry, they have their sights set on another major polluter; fashion. Due to its long supply chain and energy-intensive production, the fashion industry accounts for around 10% of global greenhouse gas emissions. Osei and Gardner want to provide local designers with sustainable fabrics like hemp, which uses 20 times less water than cotton, to help reduce the impact fashion has on the planet.
Osei shared, “everyone needs to do their part as climate change is too big a problem for any one person, company, country, to solve. We all share the same planet, so it’s all of our responsibility to treat it with respect.”