A hotel, adequately known as the ‘Hemp Hotel’, is the tallest building made with industrial hemp materials and is expected to open its doors to the public by year-end.
The building is situated at 84 Harrington Steet, Located in the East Precinct of Cape Town’s city centre.
The co-founder of Hemporium, Duncan Parker, purchased the new hotel in 2016. The hotel will house approximately 50 apartments and is being developed by Hemporium in collaboration with Afrimat Hemp and Wolf + Wolf Architects.
“I bought 84 Harrington in 2016, with the idea being that it would become a flagship Hemporium store, a steak restaurant and that it would house the Hemp Hotel, a place where people can experience living in a hemp-constructed space,” said Hemporium founding partner and CEO Duncan Parker.
The International Hemp Building Association confirmed that the 12-storey building made of hempcrete and hemp materials is the tallest in the world. The previous record was held by a nine-storey building in Italy called “Case nel verde” with 24 units.
While none of the units in this development will be for sale, it will consist of a Hemp Hotel component and rental stock. There will also be a Hemporium store on the ground floor.
Although earlier reports noted that the project was expected to be completed by June 2023, the project’s contractor and partner, Afrimat Hemp, noted that it is not yet finished but is nearing completion. Earlier reports also noted that the hotel is still expected to open its doors to the public on 1 November 2023.
If the project keeps to this date, it would have taken the project around four years to complete since it started construction in 2019.
Hempcrete blocks fill the walls of the building, reinforced by a concrete and cement structure. Hemp bricks are becoming increasingly popular in the construction world thanks to their insulating, fire-resistant and climate-friendly properties.
Used notably in Europe for thermal renovation of existing buildings, the blocks are carbon negative — their production sucks more planet-warming gases out of the atmosphere than it puts in.
Hemp, or industrial hemp, is a botanical class of Cannabis sativa cultivars grown specifically for industrial or medicinal use.
According to Afrimat Hemp, a subsidiary of South African construction group Afrimat that constructed the hotel’s bricks, the carbon footprint of a 40-sq m (430 sq ft) residence made with hemp is three tonnes of CO2 lower than that of a conventional building.
Parker noted that one of the major points of this project is to commercialise and industrialise the cannabis industry.
“Once licences for the commercialisation of hemp in South Africa are issued, having innovative examples of what can be achieved with hemp would assist with leading the way for the fledgling hemp industry in South Africa,” said Parker.
The Cape Town project has been more expensive because hemp had to be imported from England. But, with hemp cultivation licenses issued in SA last year, prices will drop for future projects as blocks will be sourced locally.
On several occasions, President Cyril Ramaphosa noted the importance and opportunities within the cannabis and hemp industry. In his SONA address at the beginning of the year, he said that the cannabis industry could potentially create 130,000 new jobs.
He added that the government was moving urgently to establish a framework for legitimate cannabis integration in medicines, food, cosmetics and industrial products. But little has yet to happen.