“What if villagers whose houses were destroyed by the earthquake could cheaply grow what they needed to rebuild?” What if you could grow your own house?

The idea of growing your own house sounds silly to many, even to those who have spent decades of their lives in the construction sector but, Shah Hemp Inno-Ventures (SHIV) has now made it possible. By using hemp, lime dust and water, SHIV creates panels which is molded to form walls and could be used in place of bricks.

Dhiraj Sah
Dhiraj Shah co-founded Shah Hemp Inno-Ventures, which primarily creates hemp-crete building construction.

The person behind Shah Hemp Inno-Ventures is Mr. Dhiraj K Shah. After the April 25 Nepal Earthquake, Dhiraj, who was undertaking a PhD degree after completing his Master’s in Wireless Technology, left his well settled life in Portugal to follow his heart of helping Nepalis affected by earthquake. He researched on alternative housing solutions and that is how he discovered Hempcrete.He came back to Nepal in August 2015 along with his wife, Ms. Nivedita Bansal and started working on his venture. Although most people he talked to were intrigued by the technology, landing the first client proved to be difficult. Even registering his company proved to be a challenge as bureaucrats were not particularly convinced that such a technology exists. After showing the reports and research papers, SHIV was finally registered as a private firm in September 2015. It was another couple of months and being turned down by 10s of 100s of potential clients, that they were awarded a contract from Janakpur Orthopedic Hospital to construct one of the hospitals wings with Hemp Crete.

As they were cheering having landed their first client, things turned south. 5 months long blockade at Nepal-India borders made it impossible for them to start work. Those few months were very frustrating for Dhiraj and Nivedita. At moments, they pondered about their decision to leave their settled lifestyle in Portugal and head to Nepal. Work came to a standstill; they felt it was better to channel their burgeoning energy into conducting more research about their product and market strategy. Utilizing idle time, they reached out to more hemp textile companies and these connections helped them improve their value chain and reducing their cost of raw materials.

Dhiraj is aware of the shelter needs of the people in the country. He believes his product will help a lot of earthquake victims and those who have not been able to build houses due to financial reasons. He wants SHIV to serve a large number of people but hemp farming is not legal in Nepal and because of that he has to rely on the limited supply of hemp and import majority of the products from India. The company is still new so it cannot be measured on the basis of achievements but the response they are getting from people is overwhelming and Dhiraj believes that in the years to come, SHIV will become a popular name in the Nepalese market. Dhiraj does not want to limit his company to just a Hempcrete shelter solution, he believes that SHIV will also open the gates for many cottage industries in the country and create more job opportunities for the youth.

Mixing Hemp Talk with Lime in Mixer
Dhiraj Shah believes in a hands-on working approach. Here we can see him mixing dried hemp stalk with lime stone and water.

Dhiraj does not believe that success only lies in the path less travelled by. He believes that hard work, faith, patience and knowledge will always pay off well in whatever one does even if it has been done by many people before him/her. He suggests aspiring entrepreneurs to start their venture only when they have faith in it and discourages starting an enterprise just for the profit.

 

More About Hempcrete:

The wooden core known as Hemp Shiv is the waste product of the Hemp fiber industry. Normally, once the fibers are extracted, the hemp stalks are burnt and destroyed. The hemp shivs can be used for making houses, particle board, bio-plastics etc.  It is found to be more durable, cost effective and eco-friendly. It costs 50% less than bricks and cement blocks and the construction is less time consuming. Hempcrete blocks naturally adapt to the environment which keeps the room cool during summer and warm during winters. This feature also reduces electricity bills because electric appliances like fans, air-conditioners and heaters are not required in Hempcrete houses. Hemp houses were first made in France, the idea soon gained popularity and got adopted by many developed and developing countries in the world. Countries like America, Australia, India and Germany have been promoting the use of Hemp in house construction because of its economic and environmental advantages.

Shiv Hemp Nepal
Shah Hemp Inno-Ventures team working in their Janakpur Hospital Project. All in the picture is an international hemp-crete professional whom Dhiraj met in a conference in Portugal
US House
Located in Asheville, North Carolina, the 3,400 square foot Push House features a mainstream design with some very different systems behind its walls. The home’s use of hempcrete was only the start — for this application, hemp hurds are mixed with lime and water on-site and poured in-between the exterior supporting studs in lifts. It is the core to a breathable wall system — Hemcrete is actually less like concrete and more like infill straw bale, as it is non-structural. The insulating quality is r-2.5 per inch, and it has the unique ability to capture airborne pollutants over time — it absorbs carbon when it is grown and in place. The material’s high thermal mass helps keep a steady interior temperature as well. This project was not done by Shah Hemp Inno-Ventures, Nepal.

 

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