Tony Budden proves that hemp is a viable sustainable construction material with multiple applications under one roof. This hemp house illustrates the cost of innovation amidst legislative restrictions and product availability.

Although this project was costly, the aim was to set an example of what is possible in order to persuade government to take notice and to create a local market and supply chain.

Several months after taking occupation, owner Tony Budden, enthusiastically explains that the benefit of living in a properly insulated house (the house is installed with hemp) cannot be overstated. He also had an electricity bill of only R350 per month over the winter months.

Although initially more expensive to install, double-glazed windows and doors has significant reduced the heat loss and noise level. According to Budden, even though Noordhoek experiences the famous Cape Doctor and winter weather in full resplendence, the wind was hardly noticeable on stormy nights.

Budden has been in consultations with advisors to the Minister of Department of Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries (DAFF), Department of Trade and Industry (DTI) and Economic Development, and they are all interested to see new legislation for a hemp-based industry. Although a slow process, progress is being made and the completed hemp house has been great for sparking a renewed interest and Budden has hosted the Council for Scientific and Industry Research (CSIR), DTI, Employment Development Department (EDD), Council of Traditional Leaders of South Africa as well as the City of Cape Town’s Local Economic Development to experience the benefits of hemp building first hand.

Particularly encouraging, is the announcement that the CSIR is launching a Biocomposites Centre of Competence (CoC), with strong support from the Department of Science and Technology (DST) to facilitate a sustainable, integrated biocomposites manufacturing industry capable of participating in key high-volume and high-value product sectors thereby contributing to economic growth and jobs.

“We are still in the development process with hemp insulation locally so I cannot just yet share the information on who we are working with, but basically we will be importing hemp fibre to manufacture insulation mats locally for the local market, with the aim of just switching over supply once we have hemp fibre available in SA,” Budden informs.

In conclusion, the coverage the house has garned shows that there is a desire for viable alternatives in the built environment. This project remains a talking point and perhaps the motivating factor for essential legislative reform.

See the full feature in the June-July 2011 issue on p40. Images: Andy Lund