The world’s tallest building constructed with industrial hemp, a 12-storey establishment boasting a stunning view of Table Mountain, is nearing completion in Cape Town, South Africa. Workers are currently adding the final touches to the 54-room Hemp Hotel, which is set to be completed in June.
Constructed primarily with Hempcrete blocks made from the cannabis plant, the building is supported by a concrete and cement framework. Hemp bricks are garnering attention for their insulating, fire-resistant, and environmentally friendly properties, making them increasingly popular in the building industry.
Hempcrete blocks, which are carbon negative, are commonly utilised in Europe for thermally renovating existing structures. As Boshoff Muller, director of Afrimat Hemp, explains, “the plant absorbs the carbon, it gets put into a block and is then stored into a building for 50 years or longer.” Afrimat Hemp, a subsidiary of South African construction group Afrimat, produced the bricks for the hotel.
Until last year, South Africa prohibited local production, meaning the industrial hemp for the Hemp Hotel had to be imported from the UK. Now, the government is issuing cultivation permits for hemp and cannabis, with President Cyril Ramaphosa identifying the sector as an economic priority that could create over 130,000 jobs.
Afrimat Hemp is now preparing for its first production of blocks made exclusively with South African hemp. This is seen as a game changer by Hemp Hotel architect Wolf Wolf, 52, who believes it could result in the increased use of hempcrete blocks for construction. However, hempcrete blocks remain around 20% more expensive to build with than traditional materials, says Afrimat Hemp’s carbon consultant Wihan Bekker.
Carbon credits could contribute to making the green bricks more affordable, suggests Bekker. Compared to conventional building materials, a 40 square metre house built with hemp has a carbon footprint three tons of CO2 lower. Describing the Hemp Hotel as a “lighthouse project,” Muller states, “it shows hemp has its place in the construction sector.”
The International Hemp Building Association’s director, Steve Allin, has declared the Hemp Hotel the “tallest building to incorporate hemp-based materials in the world.”
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