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The House That Hemp Built: Alt-Concrete Studied

Tuesday, June 13, 2017

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Tel Aviv-based architecture firm Tav Group has given new meaning to the term “green building" with a private residence it designed in the northern Israeli city of Ein Hod.

Photos: Yaeli Gavrieli

Tel Aviv-based architecture firm Tav Group has given new meaning to the term “green building" with a private residence it designed in the northern Israeli city of Ein Hod.

Among the building materials were local stone collected from the site’s excavation, rammed earth, lime, timber and hemp—or rather, “hempcrete.”

Cannabis Concrete

Hempcrete was developed in the 1980s in France but has been popping up more and more in the last few years as cannabis has become more widely accepted—in all its forms. This residence marks the first hemp home in the country.

Hempcrete is formed when the core, stalk part of the hemp plant, which has a high silica content, is bound with lime. This results in a cementitious, insulating material that comes in at about a seventh or an eighth of the weight of traditional concrete.

The absorbent and thermal properties of the material were everything that the Tav Group and the homeowner were looking for.

“The owner of the house is very dedicated to environmental issues,” said Tav Group’s founding partner Maoz Alon. “So he went and learned about this method in France and imported the whole idea to Israel.”

Hempcrete is formed when the core, stalk part of the hemp plant, which has a high silica content, is bound with lime. This results in a cementitious, insulating material that comes in at about a seventh or an eighth of the weight of traditional concrete.

The hemp and the lime, spearheaded by the Botz Group, was imported from France, while the framework, under carpenter Michael Ring, came from Canada.

The House

While the lower floor and wall pedestals incorporated that locally collected stone, the upper floor walls are cast of the hempcrete in wooden framing. Interior partitioning uses rammed earth with lime plaster for the exterior and an earth-based plaster for the interior. Standard cement was still used in the residence for a safety room and the foundation.

Alon noted in a late-April interview that, until the beginning of the 20th century, many houses in rural Israel were still made of mud and straw, adding that the hempcrete method merges technological advances with natural elements.

“Centuries ago and up to the beginning of the 20th century, one could find straw and mud houses in rural areas here (in Israel),” said Alon. “But mud is susceptible to rainfall erosion versus lime, which eventually becomes limestone, and cannabis hurds, which are much stronger and more durable than straw.”

While the lower floor and wall pedestals incorporated that locally collected stone, the upper floor walls are cast of the hempcrete in wooden framing. Interior partitioning uses rammed earth with lime plaster for the exterior and an earth-based plaster for the interior.

More durable, indeed.

Although hempcrete provides a breathability and flexibility that makes it an environmentally friendly alternative to standard concrete, it is also non-toxic and largely unaffected by mold or pests. There are also claims that it is fireproof.

All of the bells and whistles from a material that isn’t necessarily illegal to use, but is more often than not illegal to grow, does come at a price. The Ein Hod home was built at a cost 150 percent higher than a conventional home of the same size—and that’s a lot of green.

   

Tagged categories: concrete; Construction; Green building; Residential Construction

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