This beautiful little home in Australia, called Skyfarm, was built with hempcrete – a hemp-based bio-composite material. In their search for nontoxic components to use in the construction of their living space, the designers, Michael and Tiffany Leung, chose hemp after researching their options. Hemp is a completely safe building material that boasts countless benefits for use in construction and for the environment.
The primary driving force that led Michael and Tiffany to find a safe building material was the fact that Tiffany’s father, an architect, died of mesothelioma, a type of cancer caused by asbestos exposure. Michael is also an architect, and Tiffany studied building biology to learn more about constructing nontoxic homes safe for both occupants and those involved in the building process.
Hemp is a wonderfully versatile plant that has applications across several industries, from clothing to body products to fuel. As a building material, hemp is mixed with lime and water to create hempcrete, a healthy and sustainable alternative to many traditional building materials.
Hempcrete is an amazing insulator that also helps regulate moisture. In addition, it is rodent proof, insect proof, and earthquake resistant. These qualities, combined with the fact that it is completely nontoxic, make hempcrete an attractive building option with a bright future.
Hemp is a very old building material that has been used for hundreds and hundreds of years, but after the various conspiracies to knock it out of the market have suddenly subsided, hemp seems to be having a resurgence and I certainly believe it’s a material for the future. – Michael Leung
Hemp is not quite the same plant as marijuana; they are different species within the same plant family. Hemp grows taller and faster than marijuana, and it has a low level of THC. Hemp requires much less care than marijuana, and because it can thrive in a wide variety of conditions, it makes an ideally sustainable option for the construction industry.
In this part of Australia, hemp is organically grown by farmers who get 3 to 4 crops a year from the plants. The plants are dried and sold in bales. Builders then mix the dried hemp manually to form the hempcrete, which is tamped down between forms for the walls.
The most astounding fact of hemp is that it’s carbon negative. It sequesters carbon out of the atmosphere whilst it’s growing and when it’s in place in the wall. The effect to our environment is hugely positive. To have a plant that can grow organically with no chemicals, that conditions the soil with deep tap roots, doesn’t need much water to grow, that can then be cut down and manually processed without the use of big machinery and transportation is a game changer.
Homes in this subtropical region of Australia where the Leungs reside are prone to mold growth. The hemp material from which the walls of this house are formed transfers moisture from inside the home to the outside while also insulating the home from the heat of the sun. This ability to provide superior insulation while remaining breathable is just one of the many virtues of hempcrete.
At 646 square feet, the Leungs have found that their little house is the ideal size for their family of four. The open floor plan allows for beautiful, multifunctional spaces in just about every area of the home. This was meant to be a temporary living space for the family until they built a larger house, but they have found that, thus far, it suits their needs perfectly.
A variety of timber types make up the features inside the house. Most of the materials and objects were locally sourced or salvaged. According to Michael, nothing in the home is really new; almost everything is recycled or reclaimed.
The Leung’s children have their own little area in one corner of the home with room for their beds, toys, and clothes. Up the beautiful spiral staircase sits the loft, which serves as the parents’ room.
Since the build of this home, the couple has founded Balanced Earth, a building company dedicated to using hemp and other nontoxic materials in their construction projects. They have created some truly marvelous buildings, including beach houses and pool houses.