Sergiy Kovalenkov was already building hempcrete spaces in Ukraine before Putin started a war against the Ukrainians. Kovalenkov is more impassioned than ever to build hempcrete living spaces for people, as the war has destroyed homes throughout the country, leaving many Ukrainians displaced, Hemp Today reports.
Kovalenkov is still building, despite bombs going off. Since the start of the war, he launched “Hemp. Ukraine. Recover.”, a non-profit fund aiming to provide sustainable hemp housing solutions and psychological help for citizens and veterans affected by the ongoing war. Hemp. Ukraine. Recover’s current project is a 30-unit apartment complex that’s being built near Morshyn, a small city in the western part of the country, specifically for refugee families and orphans. This apartment complex is the first of a three-phase building project. Part of it will also incorporate restoring a former dairy building and new other construction. In other words, Kovalenkov is not stopping.
“A lot of the projects we had planned were stopped and clients fled the country,” said Kovalenkov, the founder and CEO of construction company Hempire UA, Kyiv, which started building hemp houses in Ukraine in 2015. “There is a huge hit to the economy since millions of citizens are leaving with their savings.”
The non-profit depended on crowdfunding to get the hempcrete apartment complex in Morshyn to its current state. Hempcrete is now being layered around a wooden frame for a structure designed by architect Roman Pomazan, who donated his services, according to Hemp Today. Hemp. Ukraine. Recover has raised $51,000 of its $362,000 goal since the start of this month. It will cost over $360,000 to complete phase one of the three-part project. Kovalenkov envisions additional housing and a rehabilitation center for war veterans, which is estimated to cost an additional $1,000,000.
“We’ll be inviting veterans from other countries to assist us on the construction of his project and share PTSD recovery experience with thousands of our veterans, who will also be involved in hemp construction,” Kovalenkov said.
As of now, some Ukrainians have lost everything. Like the offer to veterans, some of these refugees are now building their own hempcrete homes. Hemp. Ukraine. Recover. educates them on hempcrete construction onsite, providing refugees with skills that will be invaluable post-war. This is Kovalenkov’s vision, any way.
While building is ongoing through the brutal winter months, Kovalenkov says the non-profit is focusing on building connections with supply sources to accelerate construction once the weather is better in the spring of 2023. They will also be expanding their media activities.
“It’s hard to do very much building in winter time, especially as the temperatures drop and power outages last for many hours due to the rocket attacks,” Kovalenkov said. “But we’re getting the buildings enclosed.”
The materials used in the project near Morshyn are all locally sourced. Hemp hurd, or the woody interior of the plant stalk, sourced from Ukrainian hemp farms is being mixed with a locally developed binder to go into the walls of the complex. Initial materials were donated by Hempire, a company that helps other businesses plan, design, and execute hemp insulation projects.
So far, all of the raw materials being used in the construction site have been sourced within roughly 600 miles of Morshyn. Kovalenkov said the war means fewer farmers will be harvesting hemp this next year, so basic hemp materials will likely be hard to come by in 2023. While importing hurd into Ukraine is possible, transport costs have quadrupled since the war started and import taxes are through the roof. General inflation, price increases for raw materials, power disruptions, and fuel shortages caused by the war also contribute to the challenges.
Before the war, Kovalenkov was among a group of cannabis advocates that recently drafted a law to legalize medical cannabis in Ukraine, legislation the government supports. “So we’re also asking foreign companies to donate their medicinal hemp products to help Ukrainian soldiers and victims of war suffering from PTSD,” he said.