Eco House Built from Hemp in Israel

Two centuries ago, using hemp to construct a house would not have sounded strange. Back then the crop, a relative of marijuana minus most of the THC, was used for so many things—such as fashioning rope, weaving textiles, and making paper—that property owners in Jamestown were required to grow 100 hemp plants for export to England.

In the 1930s, a campaign against the evils of marijuana took down hemp with it. The crop, a celebrated carbon sink that requires little in the way of pesticides to cultivate, is only just now reemerging and being put to old and new uses. Building with hemp is an eco-practice pioneered in recent decades in France and Belgium, and starting to take hold around the world. Its use in the building of this thoughtfully designed house in northern Israel caught our attention.

The solar-powered, net-zero structure is the work of Haifa-based architecture studio Tav Group. Founding partner and lead architect on the project, Maoz Alon, received the commission from his longtime friends Yoki Gill and Daniel Benozilyo, creators of the hiking sandal brand Source Outdoor, known for its environmental leadership. The couple wanted quarters that incorporate local, biodegradable building materials with best green practices, compost toilets and a gray water system included. “The design concept,” says Maoz, “was to build a house as nature would have it, like a bird feathering her nest, treading softly on the earth and leaving the faintest ecological footprint.”

Exterior photography by Yoav Etiel, interior photography by Yaeli Gabrieli, courtesy of Tav Group.

situated on the southern slope of mount carmel overlooking the mediterranean, t 14
Above: Situated on the southern slope of Mount Carmel overlooking the Mediterranean, the house’s upper walls are composed of hemp hurds bound with hydraulic lime and water to form an insulating material known as hempcrete. The hemp had to be imported from France—”growing it here is still not allowed,” says Yoki, noting that this is hempcrete’s first appearance in Israel. Use of traditional, carbon-intensive concrete was avoided except where mandatory, such as in the foundation.

all of the stone used in the 250 square meter structure is local and much of i 15
Above: All of the stone used in the 250 square-meter structure is local and much of it is from the excavation—the hillside was once a quarry that provided building materials for the area. The bottom floor is currently used as a rental unit.

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