Hemp Building – The Early History of Hemp Concrete


In the Champagne region of France is the city of Troyes. As in many towns and cities in France, there are many old oak frame buildings that are “stuffed” with lime, straw and rubble.

This infill was normally covered with a lime render. However, in recent times these walls were repaired with disastrous results using cement renders. This meant the walls could no longer breathe and as a result moisture built up, causing the infill to swell and crumble and the render to pop off.

Nobody has heard of the mason who first used hemp as an ingredient in the mix that he used to repair these buildings with, but as Troyes is in the major hemp producing region of France, it is easy to see how he came access the idea.

At that time hemp was undergoing a revival of interest, and three people in particular saw the potential of this hemp concept and developed it further. Credit goes to France Perier (Isochanvre), Bernard Boyeux (Association Construire en Chanvre), and Yves Khun (Association d’Adam).

Since that time the idea has spread, especially in France and the UK, where today there are thousands of projects that have utilized hemp and lime to build new houses or repair old ones.

Whatever the precise details of the very beginnings of the hemp building system, without doubt the first people to successfully develop and promote the idea were Francis Aujames.

Their imagination helped shape the basic ways in which hemp and lime might be incorporated in a variety of building systems and form a new system on its own, with its trade name Isochanvre – hemp concrete.

An early example of a hemp house was built near Tours, in France, and the product won many prestigious awards in the late 80s and early 90s.

However, their claims of having a patented an almost magic process to treat the hemp in some way, to somehow mineralize the hemp hurds, before they were mixed with lime, were considered Marketing Hype — they have now ceased trading.

Subsequently, many other groups of professional and amateur builders in France were trying their hand at using hemp in renovation or ecological building projects, with many versions of mixed being used.

Naturally, this led to certain problems being discovered with different approaches, and has brought about the formation of associations to evaluate the experience of as many people as possible, so as be able to promote concepts such as “best practice” for hemp building as a sustainable system of ecological building.

There is change forming, and the entire natural building industry is brain-storming for the very first time!

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