Matthew “Mattie” Mead has spent the past decade telling all who would listen about the mission of his company Hempitecture – founded on the premise that healthy, sustainable construction materials can help build a better world. Except the most sustainable building material isn’t concrete or steel — it’s fast-growing, industry-disrupting industrial hemp. “We’ve seen a significant shift from headwinds to tailwinds,” said Mead when asked to comment on his progress in educating the public about the differences between industrial hemp and marijuana.
The defining difference between the two is their psychoactive component, THC – hemp and hemp-derived products don’t contain enough to get high. Accordingly, the 2018 Farm Bill changed federal policy regarding hemp, including the removal of hemp from the Controlled Substances Act and the consideration of hemp as an agricultural product. The USDA published a final rule effective in March 2021 that provides regulations for the production of hemp in the U.S. Idaho was the 50th state to legalize industrial hemp with a bill that passed the Idaho Legislature in April of last year.
In early November 2021, the USDA gave the Idaho State Department of Agriculture approval to license Idaho farmers to grow and transport hemp – paving the way for Mattie Mead to realize his vision of farm-to-factory in his adopted state. The Idaho law covers growing and transporting hemp crops and if Hempitecture gets their way, Idaho-grown hemp will be delivered to their new 20,000 square foot manufacturing facility in Jerome and used to produce Hempwool® insulation and other natural building materials.
HempWool® Thermal Insulation, Hempitecture’s flagship product, is a high-performing, truly sustainable insulation product for walls, floors, and ceilings. It is easy to install, resistant to mold and pests, and hypoallergenic. HempWool® has a negative carbon footprint, meaning that it offsets and stores more carbon dioxide than is emitted from the manufacturing of the product itself. It’s the only USDA Biobased Certified insulation on the market, making it highly desirable for use in buildings seeking LEED certification, the most widely used global standard that recognizes buildings that are efficient, cost-effective, and better for occupants and the environment.
Mattie Mead’s initial foray into sustainable building products was with Hempcrete. Made from mixing hemp hurd, the soft, woody, highly absorbent core of a hemp stalk, with lime and water, it weighs only about an eighth of regular concrete and unlike concrete, is non-weight bearing. Hempcrete projects require an architect to be involved in the initial design of a building which is exactly what brought Mattie Mead to Idaho. An education in architecture and environmental studies and the opportunity to help create a proof-of-concept structure in Mackay, the country’s first public building made from Hempcrete for non-profit Idaho BaseCamp.
COO and co-founder Tommy Gibbons joined his friend-since-high-school at Hempitecture in 2018 bringing experience in corporate finance and growing startups. His business experience at Piper Computers and Goldman Sachs, along with his background and certification in green building, made him the perfect business partner for restructuring a profitable company. Both he and Mattie were named to Forbes 30 Under 30 in 2020, a list of the top young entrepreneurs under 30 years old.
With Hempitecture, Mattie and Tommy have created a Public Benefit Corporation with a mission to do more than create profit by benefiting both people and the planet with their products. Headquartered in progressive Ketchum, where Mead served as a planning and zoning commissioner, they have partnered with local architects, engineers, and developers to bring eco-friendly buildings to the community. They have a handful of new, hemp-based building material products planned for release in 2023.
“When I started Hempitecture in 2013 and presented the concept, venture capitalists laughed at the idea,” said Mead. It’s safe to say, no one is laughing at Hempitecture now. Indeed, the future is bright at this industry-disrupting Idaho-based manufacturing company. They recently joined the IMA, and they look forward to learning from, networking with, and collaborating alongside other member manufacturers.