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Wednesday, May 12, 1999 Published at 09:42 GMT 10:42 UK

Business: Your Money

High hopes for hemp homes

Cannabis: A future in the construction industry?

A British town could be accused of going to pot as more than 100,000 is spent on building two homes from cannabis plants.

Forget the traditional bricks and mortar. In this housing experiment, all the walls will be made from Hemp.

Its qualities are said to include excellent insulation and easy recycling.

A hemp compound, mixed with lime, will be used for external and internal walls where its thermal efficiency and sound absorbing qualities can be put to best use.

Some smokers may be disappointed to learn there will be little to gain from trying to chisel bits of the crop out of the house for a roll-up as this treated version of the crop is non-flammable.


[ image:  ]
Work will begin next month on the two hemp houses in Bury St Edmunds, in Suffolk, in a project that could signal the return to use of this once common crop in the UK.

Housing Corporation spokesman Jonathan Rosenberg said: "Our organisation supports a wide range of innovative projects. Some are to do with bricks and mortar and some are more socially based.

"New techniques have not been adopted in this country in the same way as they have been in some European countries."

The new homes will be built next to two brick-built houses and comparisons will be made in cost and performance.

The materials will be imported from France. The basic structure will be a timber frame around which the hemp compound will be poured.

Plant of the past

All being well, the homes' new residents will be able to move in during January next year.

[ image: Not so much bricks and mortar as investing in hemp]
Not so much bricks and mortar as investing in hemp
Although hemp cannot be grown in the UK without a special licence from the Home Office, it used to be used widely in the middle ages for clothing, sails for ocean-going ships and food.

The Housing Corporation, which is funding the 104,000 project, says links have now been developed with a housing association in France, the Hennebont OPC, which has embarked on a large scale development using the same material.

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