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Case study: The Hemp House

18 June 2018

Hemp House in Mullumbimby, NSW was designed by Barefoot Sustainable Design to accommodate a small family of 4 and to fit on a small residential block.

Industrial hemp, although related to cannabis, is a durable plant that could play a pivotal role in the future of the building sector.

It’s already used for a range of commercial purposes including paper, fabric, clothing, biodegradable plastics, paint, insulation, biofuel, food and animal feed.

Now, it’s being used to produce a variety of products that resemble plastic, wood and concrete, with a small-scale ‘hemp house’ industry emerging in Australia over the past few years. 

Hemp has high thermal and acoustic insulation, is fireproof and termite resistant, prevents mould and is inherently airtight. This means that homes made from hemp-based products not only have excellent thermal insulation but also remove tonnes of CO2 from the atmosphere.

Hemp is also effective in cleaning up contaminated land and improves soil for other crops – wheat farmers reportedly achieve a 10-20% increased yield if they put hemp into their crop rotation.

Additionally, it’s recyclable and there’s no waste on site.

Hempcrete, as it’s known in its construction-friendly format, is made by combining water, hemp aggregate and a lime-based binder. This product can then be used to create building products including fibreboard, wallboard, roofing tiles, insulation, panelling and bricks.  

The Hemp House in Mullumbimby, NSW, which was designed by Barefoot Sustainable Design, is an example of a home incorporating hempcrete.

It was designed as an example of cost-effective ecological housing, with monolithic hemp the main building material. The 300mm-thick walls were made using an Australian Hemp Masonry Company (AHMC) binder and hemp.

Recycled materials were used where possible on the 180m2 home, including recycled concrete and timber, while the external doors, internal spiral staircase and hardwood timber floors were sourced from Gumtree.  

The house has a northern orientation to harvest winter sun, large eaves to block summer sun and convective cooling. 

In addition, there is a 15,000L rainwater tank, solar hot water heating and grid interactive solar PV.

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As the editor of BUILD I have a keen interest in sustainable housing and new technologies.

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