Hemp homes in hot demand


Photo: Supplied

Longevity a win for industry

AN unwavering belief in the durability of hemp fibre was the catalyst for Margaret River’s Gary Rogers to design and build the first hemp home in Western Australia.

“I wanted to make a difference and, hopefully, we can,” Gary said, adding his love of sustainable building came after his partner Georgina enrolled him in a natural building workshop.

A trained carpenter, Gary initially wanted to take a step back from such a hands-on industry but says after he began to understand the potential use for hemp, he was motivated to make a change.

“I want to let people know there’s no limit. They should be eating hemp, wearing it, you should be sleeping in it and you should be turning this into a supplement every day so you get your essential fatty acids.

“We’re living in a generation that don’t believe in it and, if we can start turning that around and go back to natural medicines, then that’s a great start.”

Gary is currently working on the largest hemp home in Australia with his business, fittingly named Hemp Homes Australia.

The hemp-lime home will span 378sq m under roof and will also incorporate decking into the design. Learning from the those in the field who have already had experience with hemp fibre, Gary said he has applied his own design skills to create a unique and durable structure which offers up to 80 per cent in energy savings.

“Since building the hemp home, I’ve realised now how important it is to build with natural materials and we’re just starting to catch up with the rest of the world.

“I use as much natural and chemical-free material as I can and this has also reduced the waste from our building site to just one skip.”

Gary said, unlike modern homes which have used excessive amounts of plastic and chemically treated wood, hemp homes are carbon negative and can be ploughed back into the ground or reused to build another structure once they are no longer inhabited.

“It’s completely biodegradable so you can dig it in and you’ll be putting the lime back into the soil and eliminating your carbon footprint.”

With seed and fibre production in Western Australia only beginning to gain traction, Gary said he is taking advantage of the processing facilities in New South Wales where the bulk of hemp fibre is grown and produced but is hopeful he will soon be able to use his own, homegrown crops.

“It’s important for us to get established and we have an agronomist helping us so we’re hoping to grow some of the best seed in Australia.

“Until then, we try and use as much Australian product as we can because we want to support our own and you’re never going to have an Australian industry if you don’t support Australian farmers.

Hemp Homes Australia is currently waiting on three, 40-foot containers of hemp fibre to arrive from New South Wales which Gary will then hand-mix into hempcrete on site.

“It’s opened doors for us and if people can see you’ve had a crack at it and you’ve pulled it off, then they’re asking how they can help and what they can do."

The couple will soon travel to Tasmania for the first time in October to discuss the opportunities in building hemp-based homes en masse.

“Georgina and I are going to Earth Expo in Tasmania soon and, if people can take something away from me and the work I do, and tell someone else, then we’ve changed something and that’s the only way to win.”

  • Written for Tasmania Earth Expo, a special publication printed by Fairfax Media.

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