A hemp and rammed earth home

Issue 25 Words: Sarah Robertson Photography: Rhiannon Slatter
Northcote, VIC
  • Homeowner Michelle had an additional joist built into the ceiling to ensure this swing could be installed. Security flyscreens are installed in the double-glazed windows.
  • A spacious hall leads through the home. Both hallway walls are 300mm-thick hempcrete and timber frame construction. The wall to the right has been finished with lime-based render, while the wall on the left has been left unexposed and unfinished.
  • Stairs lead upstairs to three bedrooms and a bathroom. Rainwater is collected from all roof surfaces and stored in two underground water tanks. The rainwater is plumbed to all toilets and external taps.
  • The bedrooms are located upstairs and have no heating or cooling. Airflow from downstairs can be directed to let warm air into the bedrooms during the cooler months.

Beyond its pared back street façade, Michelle and Chris’ home is impressive. This hempcrete and rammed earth home takes bold steps in environmentally sustainable family living.

The modern design incorporates clean lines, generous and smart spaces, high ceilings, double glazing and classy furnishings.

Though first and foremost a family dwelling, it’s also an 8 Star home designed with environmentally responsible living firmly in mind.

In the living area, rammed earth walls are warm and inviting. Architect Steffen Welsche says rammed earth has very good acoustic qualities and easily absorbs heat. The material can be locally sourced from Victorian quarries.

As you walk through, you can’t miss the unusual textures of the exposed hemp (hempcrete) wall to your left. The fibrous material has many similar characteristics to rammed earth. The material also becomes stronger as it progressively stores more carbon dioxide.

As well as being made from sustainable materials, another unusual characteristic of the house is that it is built on a shared block. Homeowners Michelle and Chris, bought a block with Michelle’s parents and built two house on it.

Both houses are centered around internal courtyards, providing the houses with much needed light to maximise passive solar design and water saving technologies.

Another surprise is the relatively low cost of building with sustainable materials like hempcrete and rammed earth. The build went 10% over the budget of 700,00 proving sustainable materials to be no more costly than highly insulated conventional walls.

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Cover of Issue 25
You can read more about A hemp and rammed earth home in Issue 25 of Sanctuary magazine.

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Design: Steffen Welsch Architects

Builder: Melbourne Homes of Distinction

Joiner: Jensen & Row

Size:  House 215 sqm, land 907 sqm

Building star rating: 8 stars

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