When Alexia Jankowski and her partner Ben Whitaker decided to build a low impact house in the hills, they turned to hemp – and hope that one day their “very alternative construction product” will be seen mainstream.
The Western Australian couple built the three-bedroom home on a five-acre block of bush in Kronkup, 30 kilometers west of Albany.
They say that hemp, a herbal product, has been used as a building material in numerous countries for thousands of years, but it’s relatively uncommon in Australia.
Ms. Jankowski, an environmental scientist, said her goal is to build a house that will pollute the environment as little as possible.
Owners say their hemp house gets stronger as they age (delivery: Alexia Jankowski)
“”[Hemp] is an amazing insulator, fireproof, termite proof, and also absorbs water vapor so that mold or moisture won’t build up in your home, “she said.
“Over the life of a building, it actually gets stronger. It feels like it’s turning to stone.”
The couple’s house is also solar passive. Windows, walls and floors are used to collect, store, reflect and distribute solar energy in the form of heat in the winter months and to deflect heat in the summer.
Alexia Jankowski, in her new home, says the cost of building a hemp house will go down as more people use the product. (ABC Great Southern: Tom Edwards)
The couple gets handy with building
Most of the couple’s hemp came from remnants of the DecoVillage residential project in Denmark.
The hemp was mixed with lime and water to form hemp concrete blocks from which the walls of the house were then made.
The couple camped on the bush block with its spectacular views for years before building their dream home. (Supplied: Alexia Jankowski)
Margaret River builder Brendan Kelly put the slab down and erected the wooden frame, hemp walls and roof. Mrs. Jankowski and Mr. Whitaker did the rest.
“When it was the middle of winter and we camped in the cold, compacting sand for the fifth week in a row, we definitely asked ourselves whether it was worth it,” said Ms. Jankowski.
“But standing here now, enjoying the view and seeing everything that we designed and imagined was definitely worth it.”
Camping on the bush block at any time of the year was “definitely worth it,” says Ms. Jankowski. (Supplied: Alexia Jankowski)
A budget friendly choice
The polished concrete floor is adorned with stones, shells, and even sperm whale teeth to add character. (Delivery: Alexia Jankowski)
For a building made of natural materials, the hemp house is surprisingly minimalist and modern.
A polished concrete floor is adorned with rainbow stones, seashells, and even sperm whale teeth to give it a unique character.
The interior walls have been left as exposed hemp and are cross-sections of marriages.
“People may see hemp as a very alternative building product, but it doesn’t have to be that way,” said Ms. Jankowski.
“Having a house that looks really modern can be a budget-friendly choice … It’s not just hippie.”
Do you want more local news? Sign up for the Great Southern Weekly newsletter. Margaret River builder Brendan Kelly (right) with Alexia Jankowski and Ben Whitaker during the construction process. (Supplied: Alexia Jankowski)
Hemp becomes “cheaper”
Ms. Jankowski said the total cost of construction was about $ 300,000, which put it in the ballpark of traditional construction products like double bricks.
However, she admitted that they had cut costs by building much of the house themselves.
“If anyone is researching the idea of an alternative construction product, they should definitely be looking into it [hemp],” She said.
“There are a lot of builders out there dealing with hemp in panels which can speed up the process and make the work less intense.
“More people are building hemp houses every year and I’m sure it will only get cheaper and more accessible.”
Ms. Jankowski says hemp houses are budget-friendly and should become cheaper when more builders come on board. (Supplied: Alexia Jankowski)