Many people are celebrating Earth Week, but Green Built is putting most to shame: they're modeling the construction industry of the future with their HempHome Tiny+ project on Kickstarter, which is raising funds for a hempcrete-based home.

Jim Savage, Green Built's founder, started with the idea that Tiny+ could serve as a prototype to show people what hemp-based building can be--and that it is possible to create non-toxic, high performance buildings that are nevertheless beautiful. Savage marvels at the designs of Green Built's AIA award-winning Architect and Chief Designer Christina Griffin, which are displayed on their Kickstarter.

The Origins of a Mission

Nearly a decade ago, the concept for GreenBuilt came about after Hurricane Katrina left many without shelter. These victims struggled with homes that were severely mold-damaged, not to mention temporary housing beset with toxicity. Shortly thereafter, a major earthquake hit Haiti, and thousands were subsequently buried under collapsed concrete houses. The need to find a more sustainable construction solution became far more urgent for Savage, who saw that people were being victims not just by natural and climate-change induced forces, but of construction techniques and materials that left them even more vulnerable.

GreenBuilt searched for a healthy, durable, climate resilient material that could provide high-quality permanent housing as well as temporary shelter, and hempcrete (a bio-composite made of the hemp plant's inner woody core combined with a lime-based binder) appeared to be a superior option because of its sustainability and carbon sequestration properties, as well as its potential to spur economic development.

Green Built's research uncovered that not only was all of Haiti's cement imported after the multinationals closed cement plants on Hispaniola (a limestone island), but Haitians paid more for cement than some regions of the U.S. did. "I saw hemp as a means to help Haiti eventually revive its depleted agriculture, and to develop a sustainable industry," shares Savage. "The fact that hempcrete is a lightweight material, as well as its natural flexibility--it gives before it collapses--means that it would result in fewer casualties in the case of structural damage from disasters."

"I don't think hempcrete is the only safe and healthy way to build, but it's a holistic solution," says Savage. "It solves a lot of problems at the same time."

Building the Future

Green Built's design and construction team is committed to developing HempHome: Tiny+ as a beautiful, sustainable solution for healthy buildings. The nice thing about Tiny+ is that it doesn't require the burning of any fossil fuels, even in the cold, snowy winters and hot, humid summers of the Northeast. Designed to provide superb indoor air quality, superior comfort, and unmatched resilience, it will be the first modular HempHome to meet the stringent healthy building and energy efficiency standards of The Passive House Institute and the Living Building Challenge.

Savage says he's been inspired "by the incredible creativity, passion and commitment of the Tiny+ team." At an early design meeting, Griffin laid out a vision of modular construction that will allow Green Built to build homes for people in different economic circumstances, and at different stages in their lives. "Tiny+ is just the start," he says.

But, why turn to Kickstarter to support this initiative? After all, the massive crowdfunding platform is more known for media and tangible consumer goods.

"Kickstarter helps make this project happen in two ways," says Savage. "Obviously, it helps fund the construction of Tiny+, and you can't do anything without money. But it also gives us the ability to reach many people who otherwise would remain unaware of the advantages of building with hemp. It's a great way to spread the word."

Indeed, unlike many Kickstarter projects, when done at scale, the Tiny+ has the potential to change the world. Along with the construction of Tiny+, Green Built has an initiative to develop quality controlled, prefab hemp-lime products that will dramatically reduce the cost of construction. This will "enable hemp-lime to be designed into everything from affordable hemp homes to large commercial developments," according to Savage. The widespread use of hemp-lime materials will have an immediate impact on indoor air quality, on buildings' ability to withstand floods and other environmental disasters, and on humanity's collective carbon footprint.

Hemp building, when done at scale, will make it imperative that U.S. lawmakers revisit laws so farmers may grow industrial hemp, an environmentally sustainable crop with thousands of uses. "We envision hemp as a way to revive the rural economy and bring jobs back to American workers," says Savage. "It won't happen overnight, but it can happen."

Interested in being part of a potentially historic Kickstarter? Help the HempHome Tiny+ hit its $60,000 Kickstarter goal.

Published on: Apr 18, 2016