The Hemp Hotel, scheduled to open in Cape Town, South Africa, is being touted as the world’s tallest building made with industrial hemp — a material with great potential for Earth-conscious construction.
At 12 stories tall, the 54-room hotel features views of Cape Town’s massive Table Mountain and a “minimal ecological footprint,” reported Agence France-Presse (AFP) in May.
Blocks of “hempcrete,” made from woody parts of hemp plants, fill the walls of the hotel, supported by a cement-and-concrete structure. Besides being climate-friendly, the hempcrete lends insulating and fireproof properties to the building, per AFP.
Replacing any portion of a building’s concrete can help reduce the building’s impact on the planet. Production of concrete, along with cement (a binding component), is responsible for up to 9% of people’s heat-trapping carbon pollution, as Scientific American and other sources have reported. So it’s a key culprit in human impacts on the climate.
“The plant absorbs the carbon, it gets put into a block, and [it] is then stored into a building for 50 years or longer,” Boshoff Muller, director of Afrimat Hemp, told AFP. His locally based company produced the hempcrete for the hotel.
Using hemp for sustainable building materials is not a new concept. Builders have been particularly successful using hemp for insulating homes. American manufacturer Hempitecture recently opened a factory in Idaho where it will create its flagship HempWool insulation.
Hemp can be more expensive to build with, as Wihan Bekker, Afrimat Hemp’s carbon consultant, told AFP. But, because it locks in pollution, Bekker sees possibilities for selling carbon credits — essentially getting paid to take carbon from the air by a company that is not meeting its own goals of carbon reduction. The carbon credit industry has faced criticism recently, however.
In South Africa, hemp is becoming an economic engine in its own right. Though the Hemp Hotel’s materials came from Europe, South Africa’s president Cyril Ramaphosa now sees hemp and cannabis as an opportunity to create more than 130,000 jobs, Africanews reported.
Afrimat Hemp, which hopes to make blocks soon with hemp grown in the country, views the opening of Hemp Hotel as an example of what’s possible. As Muller explained to AFP, “It shows hemp has its place in the construction sector.”
Join our free newsletter for weekly updates on the coolest innovations improving our lives and saving our planet.