Halifax Hemp House
I can't believe it's taken me this long to write about the hemp house. Unbelievable, really. It often takes an instigator to get me writing, but honestly, we broke ground on this project at the end of August. Nearly FIVE months ago! It was clearly impossible getting myself to write about hempcrete while it was my day in - day out. Routine was certainly a part of my life: Wake up, coffee, definitely coffee. Stretch sore neck, get outside, haul some hemp bails out, uncover the 6 x 8 x 5 foot high stack of hydrated lime, 50 kg a bag, mind you. Get the mixer going: hoist the bails and bags up, mix a batch, fill the buckets, pass the buckets, tamp the walls. And so the story repeated itself, on and on, with the oft building lessons, life lessons, funny framing angles, splintered forearms, days of psychedelic rock blasting from the speakers (we love you, Jeremy). Hair caked so heavily with lime dust it stuck straight up, good laughs, subdued excitement, overt excitement, downright pissiness, lots of love, supportive words...alright hempcrete days weren't so bad at all. But five weeks straight of hand building a house, side by side with your sweetheart and one dear, sweet friend (again, we love you, Jeremy) will make you a little nutty, at least. The process was so very experimental; almost completely new to us.
Noel has been building houses for nearly twenty years, but the hempcrete taught even him some lessons. He says it opened his mind completely to all kinds of building possibilities; ideas for material experiments like mixing natural building materials (cob or light straw clay for example), with lime, with hemp, or with hempcrete. There were also practical lessons in ideal framing for hempcrete application, process efficiency insights, a breadth of materials, which we now see could be replaced with hempcrete, on and on. This was a big learning experience! And the learning isn't even close to done; in a few weeks time we'll start interior finishes on the hemp house. Our plan is to do a mix of tile and rock mosaics, a cord wood wall, hempcrete benches, mud plastering, clay painting, creating an earthen floor, and using tadelakt.
This is the first hempcrete house built in Halifax, the second hempcrete structure built in Nova Scotia, entirely designed by Noel Taussig and I, built by hand, by ourselves, for ourselves. The house, approximately 700 square feet, was designed with passive solar gain in mind, and was built to comfortably house four people. We've also just received approval from the city to apply a lime plaster as the exterior finish this spring, a big win for us!
We've had a lot of friends put in hours helping us get the project to where it is; and we are so grateful to everyone who helped tamp walls, drive nails, put up walls, film milestones, lay the roof, and to everyone who gave us encouragement along the way and shared a in our excitement.
Flip to a few weeks ago, house-building-writer's-block persisting, I'm lucky that my sweet soul sister, Mara Panacci, creator of Yoga Renegade, put a gentle fire under my feet, and asked to interview me about the hempcrete house. Phew, saved! Mara is a fan of shifting consciousness, living outside the box, and treading lightly on this good, green earth. Hempcrete is a great fit for her Yoga, Food, Travel, and Lifestyle Blog, and I wouldn't be surprised to see her, her bearded man, and her babies living in a hemp house somewhere, someday. Bring on the hemp revolution!!!
Click here to link to my interview on Yoga Renegade.
Click here to watch the CTV News clip on our hempcrete house.
Stay tuned for updates on the building process and pictures of our progress!
Kate Varsava is a Halifax, NS based lover of wit, whimsy, and word-play. Late-nights, mid-morning coffee, quiet meditations, and the elements of nature inspire her sentiments and observations.