SOURCE: The New York Times

STUYVESANT, N.Y. — It started with Hurricane Katrina: the flooded houses in New Orleans festering with mold, many uninhabitable to this day. Then came the earthquake in Haiti: thousands dead, crushed by homes that should have been their sanctuaries.

James Savage, then a Wall Street analyst living on Central Park West, grew disturbed about the conditions he saw on television and in the newspapers.

“There has to be something better we can do than this,” he recalled thinking last week as he sat at the kitchen table inside his new home here on a cliff overlooking the Hudson River 120 miles north of New York City.

The solution he has come up with is not some space-age polymer or recycled composite but a material that has been in use for millenniums, though it is more often demonized than venerated on these shores.

“Who knew hemp would be the answer to what we were looking for?” said Mr. Savage, who started a company to create building materials derived from cannabis.

Now that the forbidden plant is enjoying mainstream acceptance, Mr. Savage is hoping to put hemp to use not in joints but between joists. His first project has been his own 1850s farmhouse, though he says he believes hemp-based building materials can transform both agriculture and construction throughout New York.

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