Hemp houses are being built in Haverhill


22-03-2001

The cannabis plant is the foundation of a revolutionary new building project where houses are being made from hemp.

The non-narcotic cousin of marijuana is being rigorously tested as a 'green' alternative to traditional building methods.



Instead of plundering natural minerals to build houses, crops of legally grown cannabis can be grown to provide hemp for construction.



The hemp is then mixed with hydraulic lime and water on site and pressed into a concrete-like material which is poured between boards to make solid walls around timber frames.



Architects are now supervising trial schemes using the process, which is being evaluated by the Building Research Establishment.



They believe there are huge ecological, environmental and efficiency benefits in the use of hemp rather than traditional building methods and materials.



Richard Scales, a partner in Modece Architects of Bury St Edmunds, Suffolk, said: 'It is a crop that grows in three months and is renewable, so it is ecologically sound.



'Mailbags and rope used to be made from hemp. It's a non-narcotic form of cannabis, so it's got no toxic properties.'



The industrial hemp being used to build the first houses in Britain - in Haverhill, Suffolk - is being imported from France.



Developers say the eyes of the construction industry are on the project, because the hemp has good insulating qualities and could slash the amount of carbon dioxide being pumped into the atmosphere as a result of reduced heating.



Mr Scales said: 'It is one of the ways forward for building homes in the future and has a lot of potential.'



The trial hemp homes are being built for the Suffolk Housing Society with a grant from St Edmundsbury Borough Council and 60,000 Euros from the Housing Corporation.



The two bedroom homes - in a terrace of four identical houses - will be lived in by people from the council's housing register who have volunteered to take part.



The houses are part of a 1.5 million Euro development of 18 homes on a 1.2 acre site.