Building

Hempcrete home in Serbia was ‘grow-your-own’ and ‘do-it-yourself’

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“It has long been my dream to make a natural home and create a self-sufficient household, and now I’ve done it,” says Serbian hemp grower and do-it-yourself builder Vesna Alavanja as she gazes through her hemp field at a cozy 65 sq. m. hempcrete house outside of Belgrade.

Nestled in the slopes of Mt. Kosmaj 35 miles from the capital, the structure is the first home built from hurd grown in Serbia, according to Alavanja.

Designed by Belgrade architects BIRO 33, the build was completed in just 35 days following completion of a hurd supply sourced from Alavanja’s adjacent hemp field.

Getting the hemp transformed into hurd required roughly four weeks of processing through the HurdMaster 1000 Micro Decorticator, a popular mobile unit from technology innovator Industrial Hemp Latvia SIA, which Alavanja said perfectly fit her needs.

‘Sturdy, reliable’

“The whole project would have been impossible without the HurdMaster,” said Alavanja. “If you are far from a large industrial hemp processing factory and you grow or can get your hands on some hemp stalks, this is simply the perfect solution,” Alavanja said of the technology, which proved “sturdy and reliable.”

“Once you master the feeding of the machine and handling the fiber output, the whole process goes smoothly and without interruption. But even at the beginning, while we were still learning, the machine was clever to stop if we tried to do something inappropriate, and it’s super easy to unlock and restart,” Alavanja said.

Once she had the hurd, Alavanja mixed it with lime, water and special additive from Belgian natural materials supplier Wolf Jordan & Co. to infill the 30cm exterior and 10cm interior walls. Load bearing is through a stick frame set on nine interconnected concrete footers that are underground.

Simple tools

In addition to the HurdMaster, the construction team used 0.35 m3 mixer, plastic buckets and a drill-mounted mixing extension to achieve a consistent hempcrete mix, and fashioned homemade wooden tools and forms for the walls.

Teams of three persons each completed the framing, hempcrete infill and a thatched roof, while one plumber and one electrician handled the media installations.

Alavanja said only finishing touches such as plastering and the installation of electrical sockets remain and her dream house will be completed.

“I build with hemp, drink hemp tea, eat hemp porridge, and make things with fiber such as roof insulation and mattresses,” Alavanja said of her hemp-inspired life. “We have just started exploring!”

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