Here’s The Dope On Green Public Housing In Paris

An arm's full bundle of nondescript brown hemp stems perhaps average a meter in length
a bundle of hemp stems photo by Tara Jones is licensed under CC BY-NC-ND 2.0
A bundle of hemp stems. The stems, which until now were considered waste, can be made into "hempcrete" for insulation purposes.

Vegetation, it seems, has a history as effective housing insulation. Straw bale houses were not uncommon as first residences during the settlement of the American West1. Seaweed roofs still exist that are hundreds of years old and were originally danced into shape by Scandinavian wives2.

Eel grass insulation boomed along the maritime shores of eastern North America during the early and mid-nineteenth centuries, providing income for maritimers3.

A future for seaweed? In theory, it’s a self-renewing resource, but one very much susceptible to coastal pollution, and more than easy to over-harvest.

If Paris, France, is any guide to the future of green insulation, it is not based on an under-water resource but growable, renewable, land-based vegetation with a long history of other useful material and industrial applications.


How is hemp playing a role in the greening of Paris housing? An article from Grist follows exploring its features.

Carry two thoughts with you into the article. There will be all kinds of opportunity to snigger at the idea of a cannabis family plant residue enveloping housing occupants, embedded in housing walls as insulating “hempcrete.” For example, it marries two ideas of the word “joint” together, as in “I live in this joint!” Ha ha.

More important, while learning about the considerable benefits of hemp insulation, North Americans in particular should note one significant feature of public housing in Paris. It is not viewed dead-end accommodation for losers, nor as some kind of punishing way station for those struggling to move onwards and “upwards.” Public housing in Paris is also a desirable, long term housing solution, not only for the poorest, but also for lower income middle class citizens.

Read more in Grist: The secret ingredient in Paris’ green public housing


  1. Straw bale houses are enjoying something of a renaissance. Try: A Guide to Building Using Straw Bales
  2. Try: Historic Affordability: Dancing-Lady Sweat-Equity on Houses Wearing Silly Hats
  3. Try: Whatever Happened To Eel Grass Insulation? The Story So Far

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