Jonnie Pederson - Living Shelter Podcast, from Board & Vellum

Episode 006

Bio-Based Buildings

How Hemp Can Make Our Homes and Planet Healthier with Jonnie Pedersen of Hempitecture

June 21, 2023


Terry sits down with guest Jonnie Pedersen of Hempitecture to discuss the many uses of hemp as a non-toxic building and agricultural product. Jonnie and Terry explore the origins and history of the plant, as well as strides organizations like Hempitecture are making towards establishing hemp as an standard material in the building, construction, and agricultural industries.

Learn More About Jonnie Pedersen

Jonnie Pederson serves as the Communications and Growth Director for Hempitecture, an organization dedicated to establishing healthier building materials such as hemp wool as standards within the building and design industry. Jonnie earned their B.S. in psychology with a minor in dance from Boise State University, and has since worked with several small businesses and community-based non-profits. Jonnie is passionate about the arts, improving communities, and creating a better future through protecting and optimizing resources.

Episode Transcript

Terry Phelan: Welcome to the Living Shelter Podcast, where we explore ways to create healthy, energy efficient and joyful places to live. I’m your host Terry Phelan, a Pacific Northwest native and an architect with over 30 years experience designing with a focus on sustainable options. I am delighted to be presenting this podcast series as the Director of Sustainable Practice at Board & Vellum, an integrated design firm based in Seattle. Living Shelter’s goal is to help you expand your green knowledge toolkit. So together we can help build a resilient future that includes comfortable and sustainable places for everyone to live. Our guests share their years of experience in one or more of the many facets of the green and natural building industries with topics like: material choices for health and wellness, energy efficiency and carbon reduction, regenerative site design, waterway health, and other big picture ideas from thought leaders we think you’ll find inspiring.

In this episode of Living Shelter, we’re going to talk about hemp as a building product. Hemp has a long history of industrial use due to its strength and ability to grow quickly without much input of fertilizer or irrigation. It appears to be one of the first plants to be spun into usable fiber, over 50,000 years ago. Its use was banned in the USA in 1937 due to an association with its cousin Cannabis sativa, and has only recently become available once more in the marketplace. As an agricultural product, hemp can sequester carbon and store it in both the fiber and in the soil, keeping it out of the atmosphere until it is burned or decomposes. A few companies have been making advances in how hemp is processed and applied as building products. And Jonnie Pedersen, of Idaho-based Hempitecture is with us today to talk about some exciting developments with this valuable material. Hi Jonnie, and thanks for joining us today.

Jonnie Pedersen: Hey, thanks for having me.

Terry Phelan: So let’s start by clearing the air: is hemp the same plant as marijuana?

Jonnie Pedersen: So, this is a question we get a lot. Cannabis sativa has a long history of human use. A lot of ancient cultures didn’t necessarily grow the plant to get high, but as fibers for textiles, and rope, and herbal medicines, originating in Asia around 500 BC. But the history of cannabis cultivation in United States dates back to the early colonists who grew hemp for textiles and rope. But like you had mentioned, political and racial factors in the 20th century led to the criminalization of marijuana in the United States, which also included industrial hemp. But that’s something — that’s kind of a changing landscape that we’re seeing today. But what we use in our building products is industrial hemp, which is kind of the cheapest and easiest subspecies to produce. It’s grown for its fibrous stalks and edible seeds and industrial hemp is generally low in cannabinoids, including both THC and CBD. And it’s actually often grown as a cover crop to draw up pesticides and herbicides before a food crop is planted. So this fast growing plant has recently seen a resurgence of interest because of its multipurpose applications. It’s definitely a treasure trove of phytochemicals and a rich source of woody fibers and other great components for soil health.

Terry Phelan: Yeah, yeah, it seems to be this, like, almost a magic bullet. I mean, I buy hemp seed to put in my smoothies.

Jonnie Pedersen: Yeah, omegas, right, proteins.

Terry Phelan: Yeah. I know that industrial hemp — I remember, you know, hemp rope. That was how they made rope, you know, 200 years ago, that that was the fiber that was used. And I think George Washington grew hemp on his property.

Jonnie Pedersen: I think at one point, and I don’t know if this is true or not, but I have heard that at one point, if you were a farmer, it was illegal to not hemp. I don’t know if that’s true or not. Somebody should fact check that and get back to me.

Terry Phelan: Yeah, that sounds — I can see that. I can see that as being a rule because of all the good things that it does. So now is hemp available? Is it legal everywhere in the United States, or is that still a changing landscape?

Jonnie Pedersen: So, industrial hemp specifically is now officially legal in all 50 states. Idaho, where we are based out of, was actually one of the last states to legalize the production and growth of industrial hemp. Now we can grow it and work with it, which is great.

Terry Phelan: That is great. I remember several years ago, it being — you’d have to go to Canada to get your hemp raw materials to do hemp fabrics.

Jonnie Pedersen: Or clothing, yeah. Even seed too, you know, there are still a lot of complications and conversations and legalities around because when the hemp bill passed originally in 2018, a lot of farmers went to CBD hemp. And so now we’re kind of seeing the conversation focus back on industrial hemp. And so we’re still really working on those seed genetics and the legalities of growing it, especially with the legalization of marijuana use in states.

Terry Phelan: Right. Yeah. Okay. So, there have been lots of other natural products that I have been aware of, and there are probably some that I haven’t, but I was involved in a lot of straw bale design and construction 30 years ago, and I’m familiar with light straw clay and rammed earth, all these other natural building materials and methods. Why hemp instead?

Jonnie Pedersen: That’s a great question. Hemp is kind of an emerging conversation, too, in the building side of things. A lot of folks out there who know of hemp within building materials may have heard of hempcrete, which is like a hemp-lime biocomposite builder that you mix with water. And it’s not to get mixed with concrete, because it’s not a load-bearing structural material, but it kind of works as a wall replacement. So it replaces your insulation, it replaces your drywall, those types of things. So kind of similar as rammed earth in that sense. You know, hempcrete homes require minimal heating and cooling because of its unique combination of really good R-value and its strong thermal mass — so, the building’s ability to absorb heat and release it back into the interior space when the temperature drops outside.

Terry Phelan: Right, right. And hempcrete is where I was first exposed to hemp as a building product. I remember when I was doing straw bale work, one of my instructors that I was learning from was saying, “Oh hemp is far too valuable to put into buildings, we need to be saving it for other things.”

Jonnie Pedersen: Oh, interesting.

Terry Phelan: But that was before, I think, before hemp hurds were being separated out, and that the hemp hurds are what you’re using now, or was just for hempcrete?

Jonnie Pedersen: That is just for hempcrete, but I think hemp is a really incredible plant because of how regenerative it is. So, while in America, we’re still kind of developing the — it’s called the decortication process, which essentially, after the hemp crop grows, which it can grow in about 90 days, that material is laid to ret or dry in the field, and because those stocks are so fibrous and strong, it has to go through this decortication process that essentially pulls the fibers apart and then you get the hemp hurd which is used (it looks like wood chips) it’s used in hempcrete, or hemp fibers, which we use in our non-woven technology which creates this hemp wool fiber batt insulation. So you can get a lot of different products out of industrial hemp. I think it’s just the developing landscape of making sure that genetics are right for the type of fiber used or material used. And yeah, I don’t know, there’s still a lot with building codes and everything, too.

Terry Phelan: Right, right. I’m trying to understand for myself and also for our listeners, why is hemp better than straw?

Jonnie Pedersen: Oh, okay, I understand what you’re asking now. Hemp is better than straw in the sense that it is — I haven’t built much with straw bale houses so please keep this in mind — but hemp is very, it’s rapidly regenerative and so it grows really quickly and it also replenishes soil health while it grows. I don’t necessarily know the characteristics of hay as a plant, but I also know that hemp is something that we call hygroscopic. And so it breathes moisture really well, so it won’t mold or mildew, which I’ve heard can be sometimes an issue with straw bale houses.

Terry Phelan: It can. If there’s liquid moisture that is trapped in the walls, that’s the one place that straw does decompose if it remains wet. Yeah, so hemp actually draws the moisture…

Jonnie Pedersen: Through it. Yeah. And they’ve seen — so Hempitecture got its start Mattie Mead, our CEO and Founder, started Hempitecture as a dorm room idea looking at bio materials for alternatives because he was watching this new garbage dump facility just grow and grow and a lot of the materials that he was seeing in there were building materials. So, over the last decade, he’s been working with hempcrete, and in Europe, in his research, he saw that in Europe, they’re opening up these buildings that are 100+ years old and it’s hempcrete. And it’s just lasting way longer than they expect the life of the building to ever last. Other building methods that they have seen around, like, ancient Europe is like how lime can help close any potential gaps or developed holes from fissions…

Terry Phelan: Right, yeah, it’s like self healing. If you rewetted it’ll heal over. I’m very enamored with lime as well, as a finish material for lime plasters, but also as a binding agent.

Jonnie Pedersen: Yeah, it’s a beautiful material.

Terry Phelan: So hempcrete is basically hemp hurds and lime.

Jonnie Pedersen: And water. And a lot of mixing. And time. And labor.

Terry Phelan: And labor! That’s probably why hempcrete didn’t take off quite so fast.

Jonnie Pedersen: Yeah, you know, it’s a very exciting material. But, I think, when Tommy Gibbons, our COO and Cofounder joined the team, they were trying to figure out what was scalable and hempcrete… you know, all the projects that they’ve done around the US, that’s kind of like a hard company to develop, as building these specialty homes that take a lot of time and labor, but not everybody has time and labor. And so that’s where HempWool came in is, is everybody needs insulation. All buildings need sound attenuation improvements or draftiness. And so hemp insulation is just this fiber batt healthy material that’s non toxic, you can handle it, anybody can work with it, and it just goes into the same place you’d see traditional insulation go.

Terry Phelan: You’re listening to Living Shelter. I’m your host Terry Phelan. And I’m talking with Jonnie Pedersen of Hempitecture about natural building products and materials. Jonnie, I understand that you’re resourcing the hemp in a way that you can track the supply chain. Is all your hemp coming from the US?

Jonnie Pedersen: That’s a great question. So a lot of our materials that are coming — well, all of the materials that are actually coming out of our newly opened manufacturing facility in Idaho — has been from Montana. Our partners out there have the decortication manufacturing process that I had mentioned. And so it’s really exciting. We even went out there this summer, and you could go to the farmers land. So you’re seeing this crop, go from seed to insulation, you get to watch the entire lifecycle of this material, which I think is so exciting!

Terry Phelan: That’s so exciting. Such a short, short growing period that it can happen in front of your eyes, I hear there can be like three crops in a year.

Jonnie Pedersen: Yeah, it’s so cool to be able to track a material down to its source, especially in this kind of climate we’re in, talking about where our materials are sourced and where they come from, and what kind of labor goes into it.

Terry Phelan: Yeah, it’s like the farm-to-table movement in restaurants. It’s like farm-to-building.

Jonnie Pedersen: Right? Shop local. We love it.

Terry Phelan: Right now you’re getting your supply from one location. But I imagine as the market grows, and as you’re able to scale up, you’ll need to go to other locations. Do you have a system in place for tracking, like a chain of custody?

Jonnie Pedersen: Yeah, that’s a great question. You know, there are some really exciting agricultural partners across the United States and even in Canada that are really developing these materials that we can use — these raw materials that we can use — in our manufacturing line. And so that traceability is really great question that I’m going to post to my manufacturing team because they obviously work the closest with the materials coming in. But I’m pretty sure there is a way that we can easily track that.

Terry Phelan: Yeah, yeah, well, I know that they do that with like FSC-Certified lumber and some even non-certified lumber in the States is — they have a tracking system. So I was just wondering if you’re riding that same wave? Or if you have something else?

Jonnie Pedersen: Yeah, that could make a really cool like storyline for the insulation, right? It shows up at somebody’s house and they’re like, “Wow, this is who grew my materials!” Yeah, I’ll have to think about that.

Terry Phelan: I buy like pasture-raised eggs and yeah, it’s like, “This is where your chickens live.”

Jonnie Pedersen: Oh, I love that. “Meet Frank”.

Terry Phelan: Let’s step back for just a minute. You mentioned embodied carbon, and how hemp is a way of addressing our carbon conundrum. And there’s a lot of embodied carbon in building materials. And I know that that’s, you know, architects have a real responsibility to respond to that with using materials that have less embodied carbon. How are natural agricultural materials a better choice?

Jonnie Pedersen: Yeah, great question. So, the built environment generates about 40% of our greenhouse gas emissions. That’s more than any other sector of the economy, more than transportation, agriculture, and other industries. So for the built environment, embodied carbon refers to the sum of all the greenhouse gas emissions, mostly carbon dioxide, that result from the mining, harvesting, processing, manufacturing, transportation, and installation of these building materials. And so the embodied carbon footprint is, therefore, the amount of carbon to produce the material from start to finish, cradle to grave is another word you’ll hear for that. And so, in contrast, operational carbon refers to the greenhouse gas emissions due to buildings’ energy consumption, which we see is a huge part of the net zero building efforts. And so embodied carbon is really important to add to these net zero efforts, because we can’t achieve those climate action goals that we have for the entire world if we don’t also look at the source for these products. And so something that’s made from a raw agricultural commodity like HempWool, is essentially turning your building into these carbon storing spaces. HempWool comes from a carbon negative feedstock. Industrial hemp has been researched to absorb around nine tons of CO2 per acre grown. And since we’re growing that within 600 miles of our facility and working from a manufacturing line that is utilizing 100% renewable energy resources from Idaho’s Green Power Program.

Terry Phelan: That’s so cool.

Jonnie Pedersen: I know, I just saw the newsletter come out, I was so excited about that. Yeah, so you’re just — you’re seeing this carbon negative material that you can put into your house. And then that is something that you get to like, brag about and be like, “My house is a carbon negative space.” Like, that’s why embodied carbon matters so much is because you’re like, “Hey, these materials are sourced, or made from better materials or from somebody that’s a farmer a state over.”

Terry Phelan: Yeah, I love the local aspect of it. And my understanding of carbon sequestration and carbon storage is that agricultural materials, whether it’s hemp or trees or bamboo, these all store carbon. Part of their photosynthesis process is to get carbon dioxide out of the air and hold it in the fibers and in the soil. So those fibers, as long as they remain intact, or at least the cellular structure is the same, continue to hold that carbon

Jonnie Pedersen: For its entire lifetime.

Terry Phelan: For its entire use.

Jonnie Pedersen: And, you know, what’s incredible too is the end of use of these materials, these natural bio-based products is — God forbid this ever happens but — you know, if a climate disaster happens, or if a leak springs in your house and you have to get rid of materials, these aren’t toxic materials that’ll bleed into the earth or into the water system. These are just natural materials that will biodegrade over time.

Terry Phelan: Yeah, yeah. And yet, they last — when they’re put into a building, they don’t break down and biodegrade.

Jonnie Pedersen: Yes, yes. I meant at the end of life, but yeah, you know, these kinds of materials and with HempWool and all these other exciting products we’re seeing come out of our manufacturing line are, you know, meant to last the lifetime of the building and beyond. So, as long as it’s put in correctly and in a really good wall space and you know, really great wall system, then you’re set.

Terry Phelan: Yeah. So let’s talk about HempWool. You’ve mentioned it a few times and I haven’t asked any direct questions about it. Okay, HempWool, right now, it comes in batts. Fiberglass batts that, you know, builders have been using for over probably 100 years, I’m not sure when fiberglass batts were first manufactured, but maybe 75 years ago? And yet, hemp batts are — you can touch them. You don’t get slivers from them, you don’t get irritation from them.

Jonnie Pedersen: Correct.

Terry Phelan: They don’t like put off little fibers into the air that get in, you know, float around and get into your lungs. This is new, right?

Jonnie Pedersen: It is and it isn’t, right? All these materials are something that have existed for as long as people have been building with natural materials, but this product is new for the US, which is exciting. We have built the first of its kind, a non-woven technology, in Idaho, where we’re producing HempWool, which is like fiber batt insulation. It’s kind of like a one-to-one replacement to traditional, conventional installations like fiberglass or spray foam or mineral wool. It is nontoxic, and we are seeing people being able to handle this. Obviously, we always recommend following OSHA guidelines, wearing a mask and everything like that. But you know, it’s — a lot of people are having a much easier time working with this material. And especially for people — we get a lot of homeowners and homebuilders who are choosing these healthier or non-toxic materials and are maybe doing part of the build themselves, or improving their households, doing a renovation or a retrofit. So it’s just kind of exciting to see these more sustainable, healthier options become part of the building market.

Terry Phelan: So, can people just go to their local hardware store? Off the shelf? I understand there is a new facility open in our area, a distribution center. Tell me about that. Is that someplace that anyone can go, or is that just wholesale?

Jonnie Pedersen: No, that’s a great question. So, our materials are available to everybody. We sell them directly online. So you can check out And you can get a quote and then those quotes generate some shipping rates from third party vendors. (We don’t charge anything for shipping.) But it’s really exciting to get these new warehouses popping up. So we are up to five now; five, Washington is a new one. If somebody was in the area and wanted to go pick it up, we can arrange that. We just added a new one in Loveland, Colorado; we get another one in Reno here soon; we have one at Tennessee, Ohio, and then our main warehouse in Idaho. And so I’d love to be in building lumber supply and building materials supplys in all of these small towns that I see every time I’m driving around Idaho or Washington. Yeah, we’re working to really make these materials as accessible to everybody as possible.

Terry Phelan: Are they cost comparable to other products that have been on the market for a while?

Jonnie Pedersen: Yeah, you know, we just — especially because we just launched our facility — we were able to lower our prices, like 17%, or something like that. And now, I’m really excited to say that we’re cost comparative to a lot of traditional insullations. And even compared to premium installation like mineral wool, we’re actually showing to be a little bit less than that. So, it’s those shipping costs that we’re working on, like making it more accessible to everybody by adding these warehouses.

Terry Phelan: Right, the distribution centers should help with that a lot. And is the R-value similar, in thickness?

Jonnie Pedersen: Yeah, so it’s, it’s about 3.7 per square inch, you know, kind of that similar, those similar qualities of hempcrete of hygroscopic. So it breathes really well. It’s mold and pest resistant due to the silicates that industrial hemp fibers just naturally have. So you don’t have to worry about any nesting or anything like that. And we have some really exciting research partnerships going on one with the Department of Energy’s Oak Ridge National Lab to study the carbon sequestration of our materials as well as product development, but also just test these materials. So, we’ll see a Lifecycle Analysis (LCA) and EPD coming out here soon.

Terry Phelan: Great. Yeah, Oak Ridge Laboratories have been on my radar for some time, they did a lot of the early straw bale research like fire resistance. And is the HempWool fire resistant as well?

Jonnie Pedersen: Great question, another one of our research partnerships has been with the University of Idaho’s College of Natural Resources and we were able to find a VOC-free, natural, and Red List ingredient-free flame retardant that we are adding to our line. And so we should have those ASTM testings here shortly, but everything that we’ve researched so far has it coming out to a Class A. So you’ll see a Hempwool “Plus” with that option here soon.

Terry Phelan: That’s great. I’m really excited about this material and I’m like, is there any reason not to use it?

Jonnie Pedersen: We hope not! Yeah.

Terry Phelan: So your new facility in Jerome, Idaho where you’re making this HempWool material. It’s been open for just like, two months. I believe I remember seeing the announcement, the grand opening announcement. Do you think that that plant has the capacity to meet the demand that’s going to be created as the word gets out on this?

Jonnie Pedersen: Yeah, you know our technology is so cool. And I gotta shout out Mattie and Dashawn, for working their tail bones off and building out — it was just the two of them — building out the machinery. And they had some engineers come in. And now we’re up to six or seven on the team out there, they are just the best. And so that manufacturing line does have the capability of producing millions of square feet of material a year. And not only just HempWool insulation, but we’re starting to really experiment with what materials can come out with bio-based fibers. And so things you’re gonna see, like an acoustic panel, we have an exterior continuous insulation gonna come out later this year, like a carpet underlayment. And so you know, our technology extends beyond just the built environment, but can go into other industries, you know, cold-freight packaging for medicine or food. And so it’s hard introducing a new material into the built environment because people are so used to sticking to what is tried and true for them, or what works in their spec sheet, what they constantly use, it’s already made, so why change it up? And so we’re working on getting those minds changed towards these materials. And really, you know, showing the larger community what exactly we can do with these bio-based materials.

Terry Phelan: You’re listening to Living Shelter, I’m talking with Jonnie Pedersen of Hempitecture about natural building products that are made right here in the US. Jonnie, it seems like things like the HempWool, batt insulation and continuous insulation, you’re talking about replacing products that are used to being, you know, specified in buildings, but with “like” products. So, completely different than the hempcrete application — while it was really exciting to those of us in the deep green building industry — there were a lot of hurdles because of the training that was required to do a completely different type of build, to use completely different types of material and processes, and the timelines involved, drying times and everything. It seems to me that the products that you’re looking at now are simple switch outs. It’s like people aren’t going to have to relearn how to frame a wall to put this insulation in. It’s just: it’s the same size as what they’re used to, they just go from fiberglass or denim, I remember when denim…

Jonnie Pedersen: Yeah, denim. That’s cool, I won’t lie!

Terry Phelan: Unfortunately, it didn’t have the same R-value. So our energy codes got more stringent…

Jonnie Pedersen: Yeah, they’re in the, I think, they’re in the cold-freight technology realm, which is great to see. But yes, we are a one-to-one replacement for conventional toxic materials in the built environment, you know, and not only is this material healthier for the those residing in the building, whether they’re working in it, living in it, learning in it, but it’s also safe for the contractors and builders to work with, which is such an important factor that was sometimes, can be forgotten in the act of building a building. So yes, we are making a healthier, sustainable option.

Terry Phelan: Yeah, yeah. And using materials that are, they’re clean-based. They’re not coming from a petroleum product, they’re made in the US.

Jonnie Pedersen: Supports local, rural agricultural economy. It’s, I mean, it, to me, it seems like the simple choice.

Terry Phelan: Right, if it’s price comparable, I mean, why not? Why would anybody go the old way when there’s these new things available? If they’re proven and it sounds like you’re working with different organizations, that you are helping prove, you know, their longevity their safety, their R-value, all the things that need to be considered when you’re going to change.

Jonnie Pedersen: We want to replace toxic, traditional materials. We’re coming for ’em!

Terry Phelan: There’s so many toxins in our environment. And I know a lot of builders that now build green homes, especially homes, the small builders, they went to building green because they got sick. They got sick, you know, creating homes for people and using the products that they were used to, but they were being bombarded with all these toxins, without really understanding what they were being bombarded with. And they got sick, and then they realized they couldn’t do their work anymore if they didn’t change to a natural product or a nontoxic product. And so once they did and realized how it affected their lives, they kind of got on their own bandwagon to educate others.

Jonnie Pedersen:Cool!

Terry Phelan: So I can see this again. There’s so many times that I’ve handled fiberglass insulation, and it’s just like, it gets everywhere, it gets in your clothes, you try and wash if you use warm water, it just opens up your pores and it goes into your pores. It’s just, it’s nasty.

Jonnie Pedersen: Terrifying. The pink monster.

Terry Phelan: Oh, yeah. The pink stuff, it has formaldehyde in it, too.

Jonnie Pedersen: Oh, man. I mean we used to use asbestos. That wasn’t that long ago. But yeah, it’s there’s a, I don’t know if you’ve ever heard of Parsons Healthy Materials Lab in New York, but they’ve got really great research going on and a really great online resource hub for everything that goes into a home, from the start to finish of building a home and looking at how toxic certain materials are, or what nontoxic alternatives are there. You know, speaking of podcasts, they also have a good podcast too, and the first season is all about hemp. Yeah ,the hemp in the built environment, actually.

Terry Phelan: So wonderful. So that that’s Parsons…?

Jonnie Pedersen: Healthy Materials Lab, Parsons New School in New York. It’s their Healthy Materials Lab.

Terry Phelan: That’s good. I’ve heard of Parsons New School. I didn’t realize they had a Healthy Materials Lab. That sounds like a great resource.

Jonnie Pedersen: I definitely recommend checking it out.

Terry Phelan: Great. I’ll do that. So you mentioned some new research and development partnerships that you’ve been working on? Is there anything that we haven’t touched on in that department? You said the Department of Energy?

Jonnie Pedersen: Yeah. So Department of Energy at their Oak Ridge National Lab. Just doing some product development testing, lifecycle analysis, you know, even maybe some carbon impact work on our materials. And then another one has been with University of Idaho, finding a natural VOC-free flame retardant to add to our manufacturing line. And there’s some other exciting developments happening. And yeah, I don’t want to give all of our secrets was I’m gonna…

Terry Phelan: Yeah, I’m sure there’s something to…

Jonnie Pedersen: Little surprises are coming up soon, I will say that!

Terry Phelan: I’m so excited for you guys. I remember visiting Sun Valley where your offices are. I know Jerome is where your manufacturing facility is. But Sun Valley is in Ketchum, is that right, in Sun Valley? I was visiting there a few years ago, and didn’t realize until I was there, that the office was there. And I was like, I missed the opportunity to go tour and you know, talk to Mattie and Tommy. But yeah, I’ve had my eye on Hempitecture for a while and…

Jonnie Pedersen: Thank you for the support. I mean, it’s been, I mean, and you know, for myself being with the company a couple years now, it’s been so fun watching all the twists and turns because I’ve known Mattie for a number of years now and seeing the development with him and Tommy has been so cool. And you know, it extends beyond just our company, the support, like you’ve given to us, and the community that is so excited to see industrial hemp come alive or green products come alive. It’s just this really beautiful union of all of these really great communities and bringing new materials to life.

Terry Phelan: Well, and community is such a big part of making change. For us to find people who have some similar goals and passions and maybe for different reasons. But just working together to make change happen.

Jonnie Pedersen: Community is the solution in my eye.

Terry Phelan: Yes, yes, it takes a village, truly. So something I like to ask all my guests… Climate change is affecting us. I mean, we’re in it, it’s in the future, we might be, you know, subject to crazy weather or hot summers, drying lakes and waterways. We rely on these things for life. While we’re making change, one of the things that I feel like we really need to do is become more resilient in our own lives, so that we’re ready to weather those storms together. Is there anything you personally might suggest people do?

Jonnie Pedersen: Gosh, that’s a great question.

Terry Phelan: Become more resilient around these changes?

Jonnie Pedersen: You know, I got to do resiliency research when I was an undergrad. And it was the concept of — it was actually with the refugee community in Boise and for youth — and how, what were the strategies that they were applying to be more resilient? Or where was the community needing to support, to help build resilience in these children, because children are some of the most resilient creatures of all. And so I think, just kind of the same thing that we just spoke about, like, 40 seconds ago of community, right? Of caring for yourself and caring for your community, and you don’t have to have all of the answers. You don’t have to be 100% perfect at anything, especially with all the chaos that’s happening in the world. But pick something, right? Like, pick something with your friends and say like, “Hey, let’s work on this,” or like, “How can we do little things together?” And I think we’re seeing that all over. Listen to a good podcast, like this one. If you’re into building, look at building materials that are greener, like, you know, pick the things that you care about and find ways to work from there. I mean, I got into Hempitecture because I was interested in sustainable fashion. I made the decision that I wanted to work in sustainability. And now I’m in the green building materials world.

Terry Phelan: Did you go to school for fashion design?

Jonnie Pedersen: I didn’t, actually. I went to school for psychology. And then, just in my later 20s, was, like, really interested in activism, and fashion, and what being green and sustainable in the fashion realm. And so, Slow Factory, another space in New York that does a lot of free classes, was kind of my introduction to the world of sustainability.

Terry Phelan: Wonderful. I like it. Yeah. We find our callings through all sorts of paths.

Jonnie Pedersen: Absolutely, yeah. And so I don’t know, pick something, try it out. But don’t despair.

Terry Phelan: No, that can be, you know, the biggest challenge. I mean, it’s easy to get pulled down by climate fatigue.

Jonnie Pedersen: Yeah, take care of yourself. But yes, it is real. Yeah, it is a real, real thing.

Terry Phelan: So Jonnie, where can people go to find out more information?

Jonnie Pedersen: Yes. So Hempitecture, kind of spelled like architecture. H-E-M-P-I-T-E-C-T-U-R-E. I guess it’ll be written on this, I don’t know why I’m spelling it for you guys. If you’re curious about quotes on HempWool, you can go to You can find us on the social media channels. Not TikTok, but everything else: @Hempitecture. Feel free to connect with me on LinkedIn if you’re curious to talk. But yeah.

Terry Phelan: And Jonnie, you’re here in Seattle with us and involved in the Northwest Eco Building Guild, as well, which is a great, great community of people that are trying to make a difference. So that’s good to know that you’re connected there, too.

Jonnie Pedersen: Yeah, no, it’s — again, that community, that’s the thing, we got it. And so, there’s some really exciting things happening in Seattle. I mean, there’s really great federal incentives happening right now for energy efficiency improvements in homes. And so, stay tuned via our newsletter on our website. I’m sure you guys will be posting a lot of updates and other exciting conversations. But yeah, thanks again for having me.

Terry Phelan: Yeah, it was great having you, thanks for being here. That was Jonnie Pedersen of Hempitecture, based in Sun Valley, Idaho. I also want to thank everyone listening in and hope you’ll tune in again for more in depth conversations with inspirational guests from the world of sustainable design.

The Living Shelter podcast is a project of Board & Vellum, a multidisciplinary design firm practicing architecture, interior design and landscape architecture for residential, commercial and civic projects. From our studio in Seattle, I’m your host Terry Phelan. Take care and we’ll talk again soon.