Materiality

 

“Architecture is the will of an epoch translated into space.”  

Mies van der Rohe

Our current global social and environmental context requires that we consider our choice of material ethically. For this reason, our construction materials are highly considered and balanced for their aesthetic inspiration, environmental and social sensitivity and relevant contextual requirements.

 

 

Hemp

We pride ourselves on being strong advocates for the hemp industry in South Africa and are leaders in Hemp construction nationally. Having built and been involved in a number of hemp built homes and, more recently, larger building projects, we understand the benefits and limitations of this material. The benefits to personal and environmental health is substantial, and for this reason hemp is our material of choice for non-load bearing elements.

Timber

The warmth of timber is one of our greatest pleasures. Not only is it a sustainable choice of material when harvested correctly, it has the resilience needed to provide for broad range of construction challenges. Our method of timber Moon Harvesting ensures a high quality end project.

Hempcrete

Our commitment to hemp is based on environmental as well as economic factors. In the context of South Africa, where we have both the suitable climate as well as large amounts of open land, industrial hemp could be cultivated and harvested in abundance with relative ease. It grows quickly, requires little water and no pesticides or herbicides as it is inherently pest resistant, so its cultivation can be completely toxin-free. In fact, it can even contribute to the phyto-purification of previously contaminated soils.

Considering that hemp can also be used to create organic, durable and comfortable textiles, pressed for highly nutritional non-psychoactive oil, used in cosmetics and even processed to create an alternative to plastic, the cultivation of industrial hemp has the potential to substantially grow our local economy and provide sustainable and dignified jobs.

Of all the plant fibres used in construction, hemp boasts several characteristics that make it superior from both the ecological perspective as well as the economic one. With most conventional wall construction techniques, you can expect to find multiple layers of different materials each performing only one specific function. For example, a steel framed structure with a composite wall system requires an insulation layer, a vapour barrier layer, a breather membrane and a sheathing layer, as well as the finishing cladding, to name a few. A hempcrete wall can perform all of these functions itself and, due to the reduced number of connection points between these materials, a more air-tight envelope can be achieved.

We’ve listed some of the most poignant  factors about building with hemp below.

  • It has excellent thermal insulation values and good thermal mass well above regulation standard, leading to substantial energy savings compared with conventional building technologies.
  • It is very lightweight.
  • It is simultaneously breathable and inherently airtight, unlike most other building materials. As a vapour-permeable building envelope, it regulates internal relative humidity, eliminating condensation on internal faces.
  • It is mould & rot resistant, as it absorbs moisture; one square meter of hemp can absorb up to 14 litres of water.
  • It is microbe and insect resistant.
  • Not only is it sustainable to grow, harvest and process, hempcrete is a carbon negative material, meaning that it sequesters CO2 from the atmosphere. About 108kg of CO2 can be locked away as biomass per cubic meter of hempcrete for the lifespan of the building.
  • It’s 100% biodegradable as it is fully organic.
  • It has the potential to be a zero-waste material, as previously used hempcrete can be reused and added to new mixes.
  • It has excellent sound insulation properties.
  • Hemp construction can be very simple and low-tech. It has the potential to create a whole new industry and job pool, which is particularly relevant in our South African context.