Who would have thought hemp could be used for more than rope and yoga pants? In reality, hemp, the law-abiding brother of the marijuana plant can be used in thousands of products. Like Hempcrete, which has found its way into an environmentally conscious home in Northcote. Hemp House is a dual occupancy home designed for three generations to live together as one big happy, healthy family. What's not to love about that?
Asked to design an environmentally friendly home, Steffen Welsch Architects considered much more than the wider environment. They also considered qualities like aesthetics, acoustics and air quality. This led them on a path of discovery for which Hempcrete ticked a lot of boxes.
Hempcrete has a few minor superpowers which make it an excellent building material. For one, it's both a good insulator and effective thermal mass. Steffen Welsch have used that property to their advantage by combining Hempcrete and rammed earth to create a well-insulated home that moderates its internal temperature. It also acts as a moisture regulator, helping the house to breathe and regulate humidity. Hempcrete has "a porous surface which absorbs sound and contributes to pleasant acoustics within a room", explain the architects. And if that isn't enough, Hempcrete resists cracking, so it can be used without the need for expansion joints. Why aren't more of us using this product?
Unfortunately, the uptake of new building materials is often slow and met with resistance. "Pulling it all together involved courage and adventure which for all ended up being a very rewarding experience", explain the architects.
The use of rammed earth and Hempcrete allowed the architects to get adventurous with sculptural curves. The curving walls show off the unique materials' natural beauty and feel more like natural rock formations than your average suburban home. The use of natural, high-quality materials has created a family home tough enough to endure the rigours of family life, but with a warmth and richness that feels homely and inviting.
"It has always been our view and experience that when building sustainably you need to look beyond the hard and cold facts and provide an environment that has other qualities in addition to being environmentally sensitive, using less resources and energy. In other words, if it is not beautiful, functional and affordable, people won’t do it." - Steffan Welsch Architects
While this is the first Hempcrete house to be built on the Australian mainland, I sure hope it's not the last.