Hempcrete Showcased At The Rediscovery Centre

By Brian Houlihan

The Rediscovery Centre in Ballymun

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The official opening of The Rediscovery Centre in Ballymun next month offers many wonderful opportunities, including the showcasing of hempcrete which was used during its construction. This is perhaps the first time hempcrete has been used in a project involving a local authority in Ireland as most builds to date have been private dwellings.

Hempcrete is the name given to a bio-composite material which is used for construction and insulation. The material is a mixture of hemp hurds (shives) and lime and was developed in France in the 1980's by La Chanvrière de l’Aube (LCDA). However it should be noted that hemp has been used as a building material for thousands of years.

Members of The Rediscovery Centre in Ballymun have been providing community employment, training opportunities and inspiration since 2006. Their ethos is based around the ideas of ‘Reuse, Redesign, Research and Education’. Their emphasis on sustainable living has helped prevent massive amounts of waste from going to landfills.

The group recently acquired the iconic boiler house in Ballymun as its new home. Built in the 1960’s the power station provided drinking water, hot water and heating to the flat blocks and public buildings in the area. The site had been earmarked for demolition but was given its revamp thanks to €3.6 million in EU funding following a campaign by members of the centre and Dublin City Council.

Hempcrete wall during consturction

I visited the centre last year to see the hempcrete as a guest of Professor Tom Woolley’s who assisted on aspects of the project and who has previously written about hemp construction.

While other aspects of the centre were being still finalised during my visit, the hempcrete had been completed by this stage. It was inspiring to see hempcrete being used on such a massive scale in a project involving a local authority and local community. Hopefully this will be replicated elsewhere.

Hempcrete wall which is getting a lime render

Although most of the impressive hempcrete work is covered with a lime render, elements of it are exposed so that visitors get a sense of the material. Those on tours of the centre will also be informed about hempcrete.

The other environmental aspects of the centre are equaling as fascinating. Everyone involved must be commended for their efforts to create something different and unique in Ireland.

The Rediscovery Centre was featured in the Irish Times earlier this year and recently won two awards at the Green Awards 2017.

Be sure to check out the centre if you can. The official opening takes place on May 11th. It’s fantastic to know more people will discover hempcrete thanks to this project. Hempcrete has the potential to play a key role in the future of construction in Ireland and the showcasing of it at The Rediscovery Centre should help stimulate a much needed discussion.

Closeup of the hempcrete

Brian Houlihan is the curator of the Dublin Hemp Museum and regularly writes about hemp. Follow him on Twitter @dubhempmuseum and @houlihanbrian. You can also find the museum on Facebook.

You can find an archive of my blog posts here