South Africa has taken another defining step towards an environmentally sustainable future with the construction of a new 12-storey building in Cape Town that will be the world’s tallest building constructed from hempcrete blocks and other hemp building materials.
The hempcrete blocks, made of hemp shiv and a formulated lime mix, are believed to be carbon negative, as per Business Insider. This means that more carbon is absorbed from the atmosphere by the growth of the cannabis plant than what gets emitted by its production and application. Hempcrete blocks further supports sustainable living by lowering the need for heating and cooling systems since this plant-based material has great thermal insulation qualities and will thus save on energy consumption and expense.
The construction of the multi-storey building at 84 Harrington Street in Cape Town city centre is the latest example of South Africa’s attempt to lower its carbon footprint and save energy. Sustainable engineering and construction can also be seen in buildings such as the Helderberg Environmental Centre in Somerset West and the the Ulwazi Educare centre in Delft. South Africa is also set to produce more green hydrogen in locations such as Saldanha Bay and Boegoebaai, areas that are ideal because of they offer solar and wind resources that have massive potential for large renewable energy electricity at competitive costs.
The Harrington Street building is also being constructed amidst South Africa’s plans to commercialise and industrialise the cannabis industry.
“I bought 84 Harrington in 2016, with the idea being that it would become the flagship Hemporium store, a steak restaurant, and house the ‘Hemp Hotel’, a place where people can experience living in a hemp-constructed space,” said Duncan Parker, founding partner and CEO of Hemporium, a local hemp company founded in 1996 that produces a range of clothing, accessories, cosmetics, and other products.
Parker and his team at Hemporium have pioneered hemp building in South Africa, starting with a house in Noordhoek Cape Town. The house, built in 2011, is a showcase for hemp products and includes hempcrete walls, hemp chipboard, hemp insulation, hemp carpets, curtains, couches and more. It was also selected as a World Design Capital 2014 project, and, since then, has played an instrumental role in the construction of five more hemp buildings.
“From a sustainability and eco-construction perspective, we wanted to take hemp construction in South Africa to the next level, while also contributing to the inspiring hemp construction projects being undertaken globally.”
Working alongside Hemporium is Afrimat, one of South Africa’s leading producers of bricks, blocks, pavers and ready-mix concrete. They were involved in Hemporium’s project through their subsidiary, Afrimat Hemp, which focuses on carbon-neutral construction and unlocking value in the industrial hemp sector.
“Afrimat Hemp has developed its own formulated lime binder for hempcrete and is producing hempcrete blocks at one of its commercial block plants,” said Boshoff Muller, the managing director of Afrimat Hemp.
The 12-storey building, with 50 apartments, at 84 Harrington Street, has been named as the tallest building made of hempcrete in the world. The previous record belonged to a nine-storey building with 24 units in Italy.