Historic mansion in South LA is being restored with hemp -- yes, hemp -- as building material

Josh Haskell Image
Friday, January 13, 2023
Historic mansion in South LA being restored with hemp as material
A historic mansion in the historic West Adams neighborhood of South Los Angeles is being restored with hemp as a building material.

SOUTH LOS ANGELES (KABC) -- When famous architect John C. Austin -- known for designing Los Angeles City Hall, the Shrine Auditorium and Griffith Observatory -- constructed the Beckett Mansion in L.A.'s West Adams in 1905, chances are he would have never imagined that the colonial revival would one day be restored using hemp.

Yes, hemp.

The non-psychoactive cousin of marijuana has replaced drywall and foam insulation throughout the entire two-story home.

"It has multiple industrious uses, over 25,000 and one of them is actually for hemp construction, particularly insulation. once the green part is removed, you're left with the woody core and woody core is processed and chopped down to what looks like mulch and then the mulch is combined with lime," said Mayra Delgado is with Pass it Forward California, a nonprofit that advances hemp in construction. She says it helps reduce the use of carbon.

Some in the construction industry refer to construction-grade hemp as hempcrete. But besides the name, hemp for insulation has nothing in common with concrete.

"One of the characteristics of hemp, and why they chose to use it in this project, is that hemp is a breathable material," said Delgado. "And as a breathable material it allows for air flow. When you put concrete in your binder, it stops that air flow."

Something else it stops: fires. Hemp is fireproof, mold-proof, termite-resistant and soundproof.

"Hemp is very energy efficient material," said Corey Hughes, the CEO of the company Construction Grade HEMP. "It would usually bring the energy bill down 15% in the home. So you could turn on your heat on Monday and you won't need to turn it on until Thursday. Turn on your AC on Monday and not again until Tuesday night."

People who smoke marijuana were more likely to have certain types of lung damage than people who smoked cigarettes, according to a new study.

This construction-grade hemp-crete block that will be used in place of drywall and insulation weighs, on average 7-9, pounds. Compare it to a cinder block which weighs 25 pounds. A lighter building material means more can be done faster, and it saves money on transportation and labor.

The Beckett Mansion has seen better days, but thanks to the organization Sugar Hill Mansions, it's being renovated and preserved for public and private use. Once complete, the Beckett Mansion will look the same from the outside, but inside these walls, a new construction material will write the next chapter for this historic property.