VIRGINIA BEACH, Va. (WVEC) -- Many know hemp is the plant to make marijuana, but one man is using it as material to build his house in the form of "Hempcrete."
The homeowner said it's a clean, green, energy-saving machine.
Hempcrete is a material similar to concrete that is used for building homes, but instead, the walls are made with hemp.
Right now, Virginia does not allow anyone to grown hemp except for research at universities. However, one Hampton Roads homeowner said it would save you money on your energy bill.
Walking up to Mike Meehan’s house, it looks like any other Virginia Beach home, but if you look beneath the paint you’ll see the difference is in the walls.
“You can’t really tell from the outside. It looks very normal,” said Meehan.
PHOTOS: Hempcrete used to build Virginia Beach home
The walls are built with Hempcrete. It's a mixture of hydraulic lime, a small amount of cement and, of course, hemp.
Meehan said people laughed at his request to use a material.
“There was a lot of skepticism,” he said.
“I’ve heard so many of the same jokes over and over again. 'When can we smoke your house? I hope we’re around when it burns,'” Meehan laughed. “Such trace amounts of THC are in it, that it’s hardly even worth talking about. You could smoke the whole house and you’d just have a headache.”
Now he claims he’s the one who’s laughing, with the first "hemp house" in Virginia Beach.
“It’s actually much lighter than it looks, but there’s still a lot of mass and density to it,” said Meehan as he shows us a cut-out of the material.
Most people automatically associate hemp with marijuana. However, the builders said Hempcrete uses the core of the hemp plant without psychoactive THC.
He said one of the best parts about this material is, “over the long haul, it definitely saves money on the energy costs.”
Meehan explained, “The mass of it, once it gets the right temperature inside, either warm or cold, it stays there very well. It’s almost like a stone house.”
Materials for Meehan’s house had to be imported, because Virginia does not manufacture hemp or Hempcrete.
Meehan said he wanted his materials from France and Holland. Although this material is new to his neighborhood, Meehan said buildings in Europe have been built with Hempcrete for centuries, and they last for centuries.
Folck West and Associates architect, Gerrie West said she was interested in building Meehan’s house right away, once he told her about the longevity of the material.
“It’s beyond anything that I had ever thought it would be. It’s just amazing,” said West.
Since this material is new to Virginia Beach, West and Meehan said they pushed for city approval to build with Hempcrete.
“The city went from skeptics to fans,” said Meehan.
Architects said if you’re comparing two identical building projects, Hempcrete only costs 10 to 15 percent more than concrete does in overall construction costs.
Regent University’s business professor said if there’s an increase in cost for traditional building material, Hempcrete could expand to the everyday construction world.
“So, you could see something like that happen with Hempcrete and it’s all related to a good economy. Which is what we’re in right now,” said Business and Leadership professor, Andrew Root.
Meehan said his home pays itself off in qualities beyond a low energy-bill, qualities ranging from mold and fire resistance to its ability to withstand movement without cracking. To him though, the Hempcrete home is about more than just a new way to build.
He said it’s a legacy and tribute to a friend he lost to melanoma, who helped pioneer the use of hemp as a building material.
“I actually saved some of his ashes, and put them in the wall by the front door and over there by the side door too,” said Meehan
Meehan said this home was extra expensive because they had to import the materials, and it was a learning process but he wouldn’t tell us the exact cost.
Since building this house, West said she’s had other people reaching out to her and asking about building their own hemp home.