Building on hemps marvels
By ANDY PARKS firstname.lastname@example.org HOW would you like to be able to grow and build your own house?
Klara Marosszeky believes it's possible using a mix of hemp fibre and lime that can be made into bricks, panels or spayed on to a frame. She was in Nimbin yesterday giving a demonstration at the front of the Hemp Embassy, where they began construction of a small internal wall. Ms Marosszeky is a former employee of Greening Australia and was involved in the Regional Forest Agreement process.
She said her interest in hemp housing began when she saw there was a need to find an alternative to timber and develop a sustainable building material in Australia.
Her research has taken her all over the world and she believes hemp's ability to store carbon means it could become a major building material of the future.
"We've gone so fast with concrete that people don't think there is anything as good," she said. "But in France there's a company creating buildings with beautiful moulded shapes. It's an ancient technique, but the French have modern hemp buildings that are 30 years old. There are hemp buildings in Ireland, the UK, Scandinavia, Spain and North America."
The technique involves pulping the inside of the hemp stem and mixing it with lime and a small amount of sand and a setting agent.
"There is a chemical reaction between hemp and lime that enables the material to set like cement naturally, but with more flexibility and less weight. It changes from a fibre to a mineral," Ms Marosszeky said.
She said the UK was leading the commercialisation of the process and in the early 1990s two houses were built side-by-side one using hemp masonry and the other using conventional bricks.
"The British research establishment worked with the Suffolk Housing Society and they tested it for everything energy efficiency, durability, reaction to weather, everything," she said.
The hemp building withstood all the tests and the British Government now sees it as a way of reducing greenhouse gas emissions. They recently supported the construction of the Adnam's Brewery, a $30 million building that used 90,000 hemp blocks.
Ms Marosszeky said hemp was a renewable resource that grew very quickly. She estimated you could grow enough hemp for a house on one hectare of land in four months.