Environmental activist creates ‘tree-free’ faux wood

Environmental activist creates ‘tree-free’ faux wood

Ecologist TJ Fiala is working on a plan to keep trees standing and reduce deforestation. Viala produces tree-free faux wood using hemp, a plant in the Cannabis family.

“It has a solid hemp core with a compressed skin of hemp fiber around the outside. This would be an example of three-quarter-inch plywood, which could be used for sheathing, decking, some flooring and so on and so forth.” Fiala said.

While he’s not trying to replace wood, he is trying to reduce the amount we use. According to the scientific magazine “Nature”, about 15 billion trees are cut down every year. That’s approximately 42 million trees per day.

What you need to know

  • Environmental scientist and engineer TJ Fiala, owner of Structural Biocomposites, has been selected as one of 10 recipients in New York State to receive a $50,000 grant through the Jeff Lawrence Innovation Fund created by FuzeHub
  • This funding will help Fiala bring “Hemp Lumber,” a tree-free alternative to traditional Forest Service products, to market
  • An acre of hemp produces four times more biomass than an acre of trees

“I think this product is going to be world class. I think it will really have the opportunity to transform the entire construction industry. So all your invisible elements like floor joists and roof trusses, they can all be made from industrial hemp wood,” Fiala said. “So that we can preserve our forests for the natural beauty of the wood.”

Fiala created the prototype in the basement of his home, and after years of trying to get the word out, things were finally taking off.

“This will then be used to create the final product, and the final product will be wrapped in hemp fiber fabric,” Fiala said.

His startup, Structural Biocomposites, received a $50,000 grant from FuzeHub, a non-profit organization that provides support and funding to manufacturers in New York.

“An engineer can’t engineer a house, for example, with a physical property that says, ‘It’s good.’ You have to understand mathematically how good it will be,” Fiala said.

Over the next year, he will survey the material properties of the product and coordinate with factories to start production.

“Ultimately, in the long term, what I would like to see is that the product will be licensed or franchised, and that way we can create enough mills in order to offset the huge tonnage of forest that is cleared on an annual basis.” Fiala said.

Fiala says industrial hemp wood is fireproof, waterproof and resists any wood-destroying insects.

“Since hemp can produce four times the biomass that an acre of trees can produce over the same time period, I thought hemp would be a good starting point to reduce deforestation,” Fiala said.

Although it’s a starting point, Fiala says just saving one tree can make a difference.

(Tags for translation) New York State

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