Friday 28 October 2011

Billen Cliffs House

After the weekend workshop we had the opportunity to visit Graeme and Patricia’s hemp house at Billen Cliffs, see their home and talk to them about their hemp building experience. Graeme and Patricia truly were pioneers. Over the build they used hemp fibre from three different crops. At the beginning of the build some of the hemp fibre was different lengths, but they found shorter was better and this was what they continued to use later. Some earlier patches also showed a little bit of ‘balling’ in the mix. Patricia emphasised, as Klara had, the importance of getting the right mix and to monitor the quality of each mix. They also pointed out that using wet or dry sand would alter the moistness of the mix.

These lessons were clearly learnt as the second storey was much more consistent. The hemp masonry for the second storey of their house, consisting of an open plan kitchen, a bathroom and a bedroom, was done in 6 days with a crew of 6 to 8 people, this involved about 4 days of mixing and pouring and 2 days of formwork. It was good to see how they had put the water pipes and conduit and boxes in for electricity before the hemp masonry was poured, avoiding the need to chase it in later.

On the lower section they had exposed the timber studs on both sides, making a feature of them, however there were some gaps under the noggings. With the second storey they discovered that covering the studs, at least on one side, was more successful and solved the problem of gaps and shrinkage. It was good to see the firm well done walls.

Their resourcefulness was shown in their cut down 10 litre plastic containers to make just the right sized scoop for putting the hemp in the forms. Their willingness to experiment has continued with their hemp walled composting toilet. They also tried a number of different render colours and making patterns of the render.

Many thanks to Patricia and Graeme for allowing us to visit and photograph their house, for sharing their experiences and for the tasty pumpkin they gave us.

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