Cousin to the dagga plant, hemp has 101 uses – and could even prove to be the perfect green building material!
If you thought hemp was just another word for marijuana, think again. While the two are related, it’s how they’re cultivated that sets them apart. And not only does hemp contain minimal THC – the psychoactive compound found in marijuana – but it is also as incredibly versatile as bamboo, if not more so. With the soft, durable fibres of the Cannabis sativa plant you can make anything from carpets, curtains and clothes to beauty and food products such as hemp seed oil; the seeds are rich in omega 3, 6 and 9 fatty acids. You can even build a house with it. This is exactly what Tony Budden and Duncan Parker of Hemporium did in Noordhoek, Cape Town, along with Erwin van der Weerd of Perfect Places. They wanted to prove that hemp is a successful alternative building material and that you can move away from mined materials and synthetic materials to renewable resources. Apart from hemp, several other building methods were used to ensure the house is as ecofriendly as possible.
The house cost about R7 500/m² to build; R10 500/m² with finishes, which compares favourably with building costs in Tony’s neighbourhood of about R12 000 to R15 000/m². Yet it was not intended to be a low cost project. ‘Building was quite stressful at times because our local builders were not familiar with this method,’ says Tony. Fortunately, he had regular email consultations with the experts he met at the International Hemp Building Symposium in Ireland two years ago.
Tony and Erwin’s green tips
• Do not pressure yourself to be 100% green. Use what you have rather than not trying at all. As the industry grows, we will have more options and the costs will decrease.
• Sustainability is more important than simply following an ecofriendly trend – use environmentally friendly paint that has to be reapplied every three to five years rather than one that has to be applied annually – it will cost you five times more and uses more energy to manufacture.
• The most sustainable thing you can do in your house is to insulate it. About 20% of a home’s heat or coolness is lost through the roof.
• Choose double glass for your windows.
• Wood panels for interior walls will assist with insulation and can be added later.
Great green contacts
• Hemporium 021 762 4380, hemporium.com for hemp fabric and products.
• Perfect Places 0861 002 025, perfect-places.co.za for modular ecofriendly houses.
• B-earth 079 900 0218, b-earth.co.za for ecofriendly paints and sealers.
• Massclusivity 076 290 7120, dgglass.co.za for double glass windows.
• Green Wind Power & Automation 072 479 4215, greenwind.co.za for automated windows.
• Coirtex 021 762 2227, coirtex.co.za for hemp rugs.
• Cannata 021 510 8553, cannatagranite.com for recycled kitchens and countertops.