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Australia - Boffins to build 'hemp houses'


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Researchers on the NSW north coast are preparing to harvest 2.5 million cannabis plants to build what's believed to be Australia's first hemp homes.

Dr Keith Bolton from Southern Cross University said the hemp crop is expected to be harvested in the next couple of weeks, before the building of two houses commences.

"We're certainly expecting them to be finished before the end of the year and we'll be commencing the building in the next couple of months," he said.

The four year commercialisation research project involves the Southern Cross University, NSW University and Byron Shire Council.

One house is to be built in the Murwillumbah area in northern NSW, with the second planned for the Gold Coast.

Dr Bolton, an environmental scientist, said the crop is being grown at a secret location in the Byron shire.

The logistics of building the single-storey homes were simple, he said.

"We will harvest the hemp, then we'll grind the stems up to the right composition and then we incorporate those stems with lime and some other ingredients and that then sets (into hemp bricks)," he said.

While the initiative is new to Australia, the concept is ancient, said Dr Bolton.

"The Egyptians used to use it to seal their tombs but the reason that it will become an important building product is that it's lightweight and it's got far superior insulation properties compared with conventional building material," he said.

"There are hundreds, if not thousands, of houses being built out of hemp in Europe."

The hemp-built house would be comparable in value with brick homes.

"There's no reason, once we achieve economies of scale, that hemp building materials will not come out at a comparable price to existing market substitutes," said Dr Bolton.

Also involved in the project is Klara Marosszeki from the building material research company Morrowby Futures, who believes the idea will prove a popular alternative in Australia.

Building with hemp is common in France where a fire retardant masonry product was used to make the bricks, she said.

"It's very durable," said Ms Marosszeki.

Source: The Daily Telegraph
Copyright: 2005 Nationwide News
Contact: http://dailytelegraph.news.com.au/story2.jsp?sectionid=1273&storyid=1288
Website: http://dailytelegraph.news.com.au/story.jsp?sectionid=1274&storyid=2684811
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