INTERVIEW: We Talk Hemp with South African Materials Expert Tony Budden

by , 03/25/14

INHABITAT: Tony, our recent story about your Hemp House in South Africa spurred a lot of interesting discussion. Can you briefly tell us how you initially became interested in hemp as a building material?

Tony Budden: After being involved with Hemporium for many years, and learning more about this amazing resource, we followed the growth of the hemp construction industry in Europe. It is one thing to accept wearing cannabis, or even eating it, but living in it was really the next level and the seed was planted, so to speak.

INHABITAT: At what point did you decide to take this interest to the next level?

Tony Budden: In our meetings with officials in Government here, we saw how their eyes lit up when we pulled out the hemp brick and hemp insulation samples we had in our sample box, and how this spoke to such a real need in South Africa, that of sustainable houses, as our government is obliged by law to provide those who cannot afford it with a house.

The thought of being able to grow houses was definitely an attractive one, and we decided to walk the talk and build a prototype so that they could experience it on a deeper level, as well as for all the positive PR it is receiving.

Of course, after wearing hemp, washing with hemp and eating hemp for so many years, living in hemp was where I wanted to be too.

INHABITAT: Who designed the Hemp House?

Tony Budden: We worked with 2 architects, Michael Orchard of New Earth Architecture and Wolf of Wolf & Wolf Architecture, who combined forces to design a contemporary and functional house. Erwin Van Der Weerd from Perfect Places then adapted the design to fit into his modular building system and built the house.

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  1. Ludvic December 31, 2012 at 4:17 pm

    Hi Tony – we met in London – I’m a friend of author Kenyon Gibson – and we’re working together now in the US to make hemp legal – see his petition at
    we’d be glad to support any action you have to make it legal in SA! Let’s all make 2013 a great year for hemp all over the world!

  2. galemc February 12, 2012 at 7:16 am

    I see you have combind aal your areas of expertise to achive this. Love Wolf & Wolf prefab timber homes. I am really interested in building a house in Scarborough that will combine hemp products with timber and recycled materials to create a housing concept/example that the man in the street could build.
    are you interested in being involved?

  3. lazyreader October 17, 2011 at 3:52 pm

    Wood and paper are made from trees, so we grow trees to make paper, just like we grow potatoes to make french fries. The demand for fries does not “deplete” potato stock, it just forces us to grow more. Just like the demand for lumber and cellulose based fibers fuels the growth of tree planting. Hemp depletes the soil to such an extent that it can only be cultivated for two years on the same land. While it has benefits, trees are more valuable ecologically. Hemp is only valuable in terms of price due to it’s regulation, if it were deregulated, prices of the material would be far lower.

  4. Jordi_Hans September 23, 2011 at 8:42 am

    It is a great idea I am an Industrial Designer.. I have been study the hemp material for quite few years and have aplicated in different projects i have done Just can say it is an amazing Material with so many good properties… now im studing it for an option to Design a new Caravan. using hemp as main material maybe with coconut fiber… If you can give me some advise will be very helpfull and nice.. thanks for the information. .. My email is Have a great day..

  5. benedictJ85 August 4, 2011 at 4:06 am

    Well done this is a abundant resource we must use to sustain our life.any programmes in JHB please let me know.

  6. debi51 August 4, 2011 at 2:40 am

    This is very impressive. Congratulations, and I hope you can get some government support and financial backing to be able to build these homes all around the world. It would definitely help slow down our forest destruction if we could use hemp instead of timber. Plus, I imagine it would make housing a lot more affordable. However, due to the size of the timber industry and related industries, combined with their financial influence within our governments, I’m not sure how successful you will be. As with all hemp and cannabis products, which we know could change our lives for the better, there are larger and more powerful companies that stand to lose billions of dollars if hemp and cannabis products were to become legal. It’s all about who has the most money and the biggest influence over governments and politicians unfortunitly. Good luck and I wish you all the best. I’d definitely build a hemp house if they were available. The mind boggles over how many jobs could be created with this, plus the flow on benefits to many struggling communities. But, as I stated, you’re up against an almighty Giant within the multinational timber industry who, I believe would never allow your product to come onto the market.

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