Hemp first in Beacy

BEACONSFIELD is soon to be home to Perth’s first “hempcrete” house.

Hempcrete is made from the woody core of the hemp plant, mixed together with lime.

Home owner May-Ring Chen says her last house was too big, so she decided to sell it and build her own sustainable abode.

“Once I move in it should be pretty much carbon neutral and I’m not using any chemicals,” she says.

Hemp has been popping up all over the place: hemp clothing, bags, even lip balms are nearing the norm with the hemp plant becoming increasingly popular with builders and architects. It’s popular in Europe, particularly the Netherlands.

Ms Chen’s architect Barbara Cullity says a few hemp houses have popped up in WA since 2016.

“There are four or five hempcrete houses in Margaret River, and an eco-village in Denmark which has 13 hempcrete houses has recently been completed. There’s also a few down in Northcliffe.”

• Mathew Hearn from Hempcrete WA mixes up some of the good stuff. Photo by Steve Grant

Ms Cullity says it’s still quite difficult to get information on how to construct a hemp house.

“It’s not at all a standard building technique yet,” she says.

“I’ve never done a hempcrete house before, so there was lot of learning involved; reading books and things on the internet and talking to lots of people who have done it.”

Ms Chen says it was difficult to find a builder willing to work with hemp.

“As an architect Barbara is actually quite brave to have taken it on.”

The project began with the installation of a 45,000 litre water tank in September last year, and building got under way in February once builders Moss Johnson and David Carbon of Wandoo Design and Construction joined the team.

• May-Ring Chen and architect Barbara Cullity. Photo by Molly Schmidt

“We’ve built plenty of crazy things in the past,” says Mr Carbon.

“These good folk had done all the research and we were happy we knew where they were going. We’re certainly open to hemp and we’ve seen it for the last 20 to 30 years as it sort of filtered into construction in Australia.”

The site now looks less like a construction site and more like a house, with floors and framework already standing and the hempcrete walls going up over the next few weeks.

Ms Cullity says the part of the hemp plant used in building is a waste product.

“When they grow a hemp plant usually for the fibre or hemp oil they strip off the leaves and the seeds and what is left behind is this woody stalk, which is what we use.”

She says a timber frame holds up Ms Chen’s house structurally, with formwork on the inside.

by MOLLY SCHMIDT

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