Hemp home an eco dream
A HEMP house in Tenterfield is an eco dream that is now becoming a reality for Leonore Bastow, who has been wanting to build her own home for years and is a passionate hemp advocate.
Ms Bastow, who moved to Tenterfield from the Hunter Valley in January, started the house build in mid-April this year, and began work on the hemp walls on June 11.
"I've been wanting to build a house for many years, but I went to a workshop by a hemp person who was an authority on hemp in building particularly, and I became hooked really.
"It's the most sensible building material and I don't know why the rest of the world isn't doing it.”
She said benefits of a hemp home included great insulation; it's fireproof; it is naturally termite, pest and mould resistant; and a low carbon footprint.
"And after 15 years it turns into limestone so you've got a very strong house. It should really be called 'hemp stone' in my opinion.”
Ms Bastow, who also teaches yogalates in the local hall and runs hemp clothing design business Shar-la Designs from her shed, is building the self-sustainable, two-bedroom home on a concrete slab with a wooden frame.
"I'm completely off-grid. I have tanks for water, solar for electricity and wood for the fire,” she said.
"And I don't need much for heating because of the good insulation. It will need minimal warming, and it will stay cool in summer as well.”
To build the hemp walls, Ms Bastow enlisted the help of hemp expert David Brian from Southern Hemp and put out a call on social media for volunteers, and a group of keen helpers materialised.
"They pitched in and kept helping out. They came to learn and see the entire process and how it was done so they could think about their own projects,” Ms Bastow said.
"I just think it's a logical way to build. Every other way uses huge resources from the earth. Every builder should be interested.”
She said she would use a local electrician and plumber to finish the house over the next couple of months.
"There's a growing number of people moving to Tenterfield with a sustainable and eco-minded approach.”
Mr Brian, who is based in Moama and has helped Ms Bastow with the project, said the hemp used in building came from the woody core of the hemp stalk and the fibre was the bark on the stalk.
"The woody core, the hurd, is shredded to small woodchip-sized pieces and put in a mixer. Water is added to it and it becomes a nice golden colour and then you add the lime to that.”
Mr Brian said hemp builds were slowly growing in popularity for many reasons.
"There's the insulation value and it helps to offset the rising cost of energy which is becoming a big problem. In a lot of areas, hemp homes are flame-zone rated - people don't want to live in a corrugated iron shed in a bush fire area. And the sustainability is a big factor. They also have great acoustic qualities for blocking out sound or keeping sound in.
"And it's just a nice ambience. The other big thing is you have a lot of flexibility with design. Whatever you can shape your form work to, you can shape your hemp to. You can have different colours which some people like, or you can render the inside and outside.”
He said the houses should last "hundreds of years”.
"I just see it as a great way forward in so many areas.”