Friday, March 16, 2007


By the eighteenth centrury, hemp had been grown in every county in Ireland. Along with flax, it was a staple of the Irish economy. Textiles and cordage productions were main industries in the Emerald Isle, but time has eroded these and now hemp is scarce to be seen.

However, it is making a comeback. Jim McDonald and son a few years ago opened The Hemp Store in Dublin, selling clothes, paper and other hemp items. Farmers are taking it up again, as it is an easy crop to grow and harvest, and hemp provides fibre, pulp, food, oil, and now, building material.

This last use of hemp is covered extensively by Steve Allin in his comprehensive book Building with Hemp. In it he covers every angle of this aspect, going into great detail and providing 300 full colour images. He starts with the basic history of hemp and then goes on to examine the materials involved, mainly hemp hurds and lime, which is the shells of little sea creatures who died some millions of years ago.

Like all well written books on a current subject, it has an index and a resource guide, so it is a seminal work which is user friendly. I learned a lot from it myself, not just about hempcrete and other hemp building materials, but about architecture in general. Building with Hemp is published in Ireland by Seed Press; more information can be found at and the email address is

Another Irish effort in the realm of all things hemp is Simon Jennings' work to start using hemp biomass for blanks in surfboards, his surfing podcasts are famous the world over and include an interview with me about the future of the hemp industry. He is known as the Irish surfer, and can be found at times off the coast of Donegal when the waves are rolling in.

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