Over the past 10 years, Nigel Kermode on the Isle of Man has designed and built his art-deco-influenced house using hempcrete, made from the waste pith of the hemp plant stalk mixed with lime and water. A former art student with a background in architectural studies, Nigel decided he wanted to design and build his own house and took it upon himself to investigate alternative building techniques.
“I decided on using hempcrete, as it enabled you to create rounded and curved walls, and to create unconventional shapes.” Nigel’s house was built around a timber frame structure, with timbered internal walls. The outside was shuttered off and the external walls were made by mixing the hempcrete by hand on site and pouring it into the shuttering, creating a solid cast wall.
“It grows tall, in a similar way to bamboo and, when you break the stalks apart to get the fibres, you get a lot of cork-like pith. It was discovered that the pith contains these wonderful insulation properties. It is filled with a lot of micro holes that holds air and moisture. The result is a house that has terrific qualities of insulation, breathability and its got thermal mass, which means it keeps its heat once it gets warm.”
“There’s no waterproofer, or plastic, or chemical agents inside it. It’s painted in whitewash and the idea is that the walls are breathable and inside the house, it generates a nice atmosphere. The walls maintain a nice balance, not too dry, and not overly moist.”
Using the material on the Isle of Man was not straightforward. As an inert part of the hemp plant, Nigel was able to have bales of the material shipped to the island relatively easily. However, he faced a battle to gain the permission to build using it. “I had to negotiate with building control, as the product wasn’t an acknowledged building material over here, and I had to get them to change their legislation on this product so it can be used,” he said.
“I did look into the possibility of growing my own hemp,” he added. “It grows to be quite a huge plant and an acre can easily provide you with the hemp you need to build a place. But the law is, or was, that you can’t grow it, simple as that. I do like the idea of being able to grow your own house.”
You can read the original article at www.iomtoday.co.im