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SCU researcher harvests hemp for houses


17 February 2005
Nearly 2.5 million hemp plants will be harvested from a secret location in Northern NSW over the next two weeks, and then processed for use in the construction of two hemp houses.

The hemp houses are part of the North Coast Mop Crop project, a collaboration between Southern Cross University, Morrowby Futures, Ecotechnology Australia and a North Coast council.

Project leader Dr Keith Bolton, from Southern Cross University, said hemp was being used successfully to construct houses in France and other parts of Europe, but this was understood to be the first time hemp houses will be built in Australia.

“There are two important things that make hemp a superior material for building. It’s lightweight, which means there is less stress on foundations, and the thermal properties are far superior to conventional building materials,” Dr Bolton said.

“We will be using the entire crop for the building material and we will be building at least two houses.”

Dr Bolton said the 1.3 hectare crop was being grown at a North Coast sewerage plant and used as a means of “mopping” up the effluent. It is the fifth and largest hemp crop to be produced through SCU’s North Coast Mop Crop Project.

“We are aiming to demonstrate that there can be a commercial outcome from hemp cultivation. The State Government has indicated that they will not allow commercial licences for growing hemp until they are confident there is a market.”

Dr Bolton said once economies of scale were in place the cost of the hemp building material should be similar to conventional bricks.

He said it was possible that in future people would be able to grow their own crop and then have their house built on site out of the processed hemp.

“I can definitely say the insulation properties are far superior. We also think we may be eligible for carbon credits, because the material will be locking up a significant amount of carbon.”

Dr Bolton said harvesting of the hemp crop would begin on February 21. The hemp will be dried and chipped on site, before being transported off site to be incorporated into building materials.

Photo opportunity: Friday, February 18, 11am. For location details contact
Brigid Veale, SCU Media Liaison, 66593006 or m. 0439 680 748.