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Minnesota tribe builds first-of-its-kind manufacturing facility for game-changing building material: ‘A no-brainer’

“What the Lower Sioux is doing is the most compelling and forward-thinking thing that’s happening in hempcrete today.”

"What the Lower Sioux is doing is the most compelling and forward-thinking thing that’s happening in hempcrete today."

Photo Credit: iStock

A Minnesota tribe is at the forefront of efforts to introduce a futuristic building material to the United States, with a first-of-its-kind manufacturing facility expected to be completed in April.

Grist reported that the Lower Sioux, who are part of the Mdewakanton Band of Dakota, are building a 20,000-square-foot campus that will help the tribe regain some of its sovereignty and facilitate the construction of houses from hempcrete, a sustainable material made from lime, water, and hemp. 

The facility will be the only one stateside involved in the growth of the hemp, the production of the hempcrete, and the building of the houses. 

“The idea of making homes that would last and be healthy was a no-brainer,” tribal council president Robert “Deuce” Larsen told Grist. “We need to build capacity in the community and show that it can be an income stream.”

Unlike the harvesting or production of other building materials like wood or concrete — the latter of which is responsible for 8% of carbon pollution globally — the cultivation of hemp is eco-friendly.

Multiple studies have concluded that the plant soaks up planet-warming carbon at least two times more effectively than trees, the number of which has dropped nearly 50% “since the start of human civilization,” according to the journal Nature

Hempcrete is also a powerful way to weatherize a home for all seasons. One study by Cerema found that the toxin-free mixture could even “reduce [a] building’s heating requirement by up to 70%.”  

According to the International Renewable Energy Agency, current heating and cooling needs account for more than 40% of global carbon pollution linked to dangerous changing worldwide temperatures and extreme weather

The Lower Sioux will also reportedly utilize a storage greenhouse that runs on solar power, a type of clean energy, adding even more to the venture’s sustainability. 

“What the Lower Sioux is doing is the most compelling and forward-thinking thing that’s happening in hempcrete today,” Jennifer Martin, a partner at design and construction company HempStone, said, per Grist. 

“There’s no other contractors in the area who can offer natural building materials that are better for the health of the people and the homeowners’ pocketbook,” Lower Sioux tribal council vice president Earl Pendleton told the Sahan Journal.

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