EPA awards $100,000 grant to support development of hemp-based bricks
The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) recently announced that it is awarding a $100,000 grant to help a small business from Washington State develop sustainable hemp bricks for use in construction projects.
On April 6, the EPA’s small business innovation research program announced 24 grant recipients, including Earth Merchant. These grant recipients are all small businesses that reportedly plan to develop innovative technologies aligned with the EPA’s mission to protect human health and the environment.
“We have the opportunity to confront our greatest environmental challenges with the strength and creativity of American entrepreneurs,” said EPA Administrator Michael S. Regan in a release. “I congratulate all of the small businesses receiving EPA funding today. I look forward to working with them to harness the power of innovation to build a healthier, safer and more equitable future."
What are OlogyBricks?
Earth Merchant is a Vancouver-based business that develops, manufactures and brands sustainable products. It is reportedly focused on using industrial hemp to solve problems.
The company's proposed project involves developing a product called OlogyBricks. These bricks are composed of a material called hempcrete. Hempcrete is made primarily from the inner woody core of industrial hemp plants, which is then mixed with lime.
With a sustainable, low-input plant used as the main ingredient, OlogyBricks could provide an environmentally friendly alternative to the concrete-based bricks that are typically used in construction projects today.
“Industrial hemp can be grown without pesticides or chemical fertilizers, requires less water than crops like cotton or corn, and reaches maturity one hundred days from planting,” state EPA documents. “Hemp photosynthesizes carbon dioxide with greater efficiency than trees and can be harvested twice per year, doubling the rate of carbon sequestration.”
Building better bricks
Positive environmental benefits aren't all OlogyBricks can provide. These innovative bricks reportedly also have the potential to improve health outcomes for residents, provide affordable housing and reduce home energy costs.
EPA documents describe the bricks as “durable, lightweight, carbon-negative construction blocks made from industrial hemp, lime, and hemp-derivatives.” The hemp bricks are reportedly antifungal and antimicrobial and have been designed “for superior thermal resistance and mechanical properties that will improve energy efficiency and indoor air quality in single family homes and other architectural applications.”
“Builders, developers, municipalities, and housing organizations have expressed a strong need for sustainable, energy efficient building materials like OlogyBricks that are manufactured in America and can . . . address the climate crisis,” state EPA documents.
Feasibility does not seem to be a concern
Sometimes really good ideas are not feasible. This can be due to a high cost required to create the product, a need for special machinery to manufacture a product or other complications that can prevent a potential solution from becoming a reality. Fortunately, that does not seem to be the case for OlogyBricks.
EPA documents state, “OlogyBricks are highly feasible and can be produced with relatively simple machinery. All inputs will be sourced in the United States where the industrial hemp supply has blossomed following passage of the 2018 Farm Bill.”
It is not yet clear when OlogyBricks will make their debut on the market. Earth Merchant’s $100,000 grant is a Phase 1 award to develop a “proof of concept” for the OlogyBricks. If the company successfully completes Phase 1, it can submit a proposal for a Phase II award. A Phase II award could provide up to $400,000 to further develop and commercialize the technology.