Because South African authorities do not distinguish between hemp and the euphoric THC-laden "dagga" plant, its benefits as a super-sustainable building material have largely gone untapped. Until now - a tireless hemp advocate, Tony Budden joined forces with Dutch architect Erwin van der Weerd from Perfect Places to build South Africa's first seven-roomed hemp house in Noordhoek. The home is designed to showcase hemp's incredible potential as a building material and convince the government to remove obstacles for widespread commercial development of one of the most resilient, versatile, and fast-growing carbon sinks on earth.
Tony Budden and his partner Duncan Parker aimed to give the Hemp House the lightest carbon footprint possible, but had to import most of the materials since South Africa lacks a domestic supply of hemp products. The internal modular walls are comprised of hemp insulation and sealed with magnesium oxide boards, while the external walls are made from a lime-based hempcrete that is considerably less energy intensive to produce and less dense than traditional cement. But what makes the building South Africa’s most sustainable?
It is passively cooled, heated, and ventilated, incredibly well insulated, and partly powered by solar energy. The floors are made from sustainably-sourced cork, 85% of the furniture and cabinetry is made from hempboard, and all of the grey and black water will be treated and recycled. Also included are LED lamps to reduce energy use, eco-paints to prevent harmful off-gassing, and reclaimed stone.
Not only is the Hemp House an impressive achievement in sustainable building, but Budden’s determination to overcome misguided regulatory roadblocks to illustrate the huge environmental and social advantages of growing hemp locally puts this groundbreaking home on par with Nelson Mandela and Desmond Tutu peace efforts. Already government officials are reconsidering their formerly-held bias against what is actually an excellent antidote to water and chemical-happy fibers such as cotton.