The white exterior of the sports hall.
COURTESY ELODIE DUPUY

In France, A Hempcrete Sports Center Demonstrates the Material’s Promise

Designed by local firm Lemoal Lemoal, the relatively modest center is the first public building in France made of this sustainable material.

Hempcrete is a biocomposite material that was first used in France in the 1990s, but until recently, building codes and a lack of certification made it largely impossible to use in public buildings. A combination of lime and hemp in varying mixtures, hempcrete is typically made into lightweight panels or bricks that are fireproof and durable and perform well acoustically. Most importantly, because hemp plants absorb carbon dioxide from the atmosphere while they grow—and they grow quickly—hempcrete is a carbon-negative material. 

A sports hall designed by Lemoal Lemoal in the small town of Croissy-Beaubourg, to the east of Paris, holds the special status of being the first public building in France to use hempcrete. The Pierre Chevet sports hall is a modest and unobtrusive facility with a simple wooden frame that extends into a half-vaulted structure. In most of the interior walls, the frame is filled in with hempcrete blocks made from hemp grown and processed within 300 miles of the construction site. 

sports hall interior
The simple exposed structure and whitewashed exterior of Lemoal Lemoal’s sports hall in Croissy-Beauborg, France, belie an innovative hempcrete construction. Using this biocomposite material, the building achieved exceptional thermal and acoustic efficiency, not to mention low embodied carbon. COURTESY ELODIE DUPUY

Outside the building, one hardly sees any trace of the material. For protection from weather, all facades are made of white fiber cement panels that allow individual components to be replaced or repaired. Inside, the lower sections of the walls have been treated with hemp plaster, but the hempcrete blocks have been left visible on the upper reaches to make full use of their acoustic, thermal, and climatic properties. 

This debut for the novel material comes at a time when broader adoption not only in France, but around the world seems to be right around the corner. Since it became legal to grow hemp in 47 states, and since the United States is the third largest producer of industrial hemp (behind China and Canada), we can expect to see more hempcrete projects domestically as well.

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