Home among the hempcrete

By Chris Thomson | posted on December 7, 2018

DENMARK’S hempcrete housing village is now complete, bar a bit of landscaping, and you can be the last of 12 homebuyers to secure a dwelling in the $6 million grassroots project.

Project manager Paul Llewellyn, a former GreensWA MLC for South West, says the village arose from an extensive scoping exercise.

“We wanted land that was within 500m of town, which was solar reflective – this is about 90 per cent solar reflective – with a stream, Millar’s Creek is right there, and we’re about 150m from Mrs Jones (Cafe) and the arts precinct,” he says.

“We used the model of collaborative or Co-Housing, which was developed in the real Denmark.

“It is a model for delivering friendly neighbourhoods, and the design of the neighbourhood gives rise to the community.”

The DecoHousing Denmark project has four four-bedroom family homes, eight two-bedroom homes, a den for teenagers, and a common house complete with kitchen and games/movie room.

Social worker Pam Rumble, the project’s community development practitioner, says the home-grown company behind the project received no favours from Denmark Shire.

“We had to widen Wattle Way, cede the land either side of the creek, and give a three-metre-wide pedestrian strip,” she says.

In addition, the company had to cede 27 per cent of its 6500sqm block to the Shire.

“History shows that if you do anything outside the box, a commune, a Green Title, the banks don’t like it, the shires don’t like it, so we decided to set up a company, get organised and do it by the book,” Ms Rumble explains.

“We were very fortunate; we had a couple of town planners, facilitators, environmental scientists, an accountant, people in business, so we had a very good team.”

Mr Llewellyn says the block was parcelled in strict accordance with Western Australia’s Strata Act.

“We wanted to use the Act to its maximum potential, to use the rules and liveable neighbourhood frameworks to give expression to this vision to have a well-organised, friendly neighbourhood,” he says.

“It’s hard to do because you have to get around so many tick-a-box rules.

“The structures are built out of industrial hemp … a high-performance, environmentally sound material.”

Mr Llewellyn says the project is the largest hempcrete one in Australia, and probably the Southern Hemisphere.

With landscaping not yet complete, the project is already exporting power to the grid.

“There’s no heating or cooling,” he says.

“We may put a fire in the common house.

“We have an amazing power system; we’ve collectivised the energy and communalised the water supply.”

The development’s youngest resident is seven months old, and the eldest an octogenarian.

Albany-based H+H Architects managed the project contract.

“They stuck with us in being responsive to what we needed, but not too responsive, because it was like herding cats,” Mr Llewellyn says.

“We had eight or nine households involved in the preliminary design, and some people came and went.

“It’s affordable, high quality housing, not just affordable housing.”

For Ms Rumble, the project is all about “the sharing, the connection”.

“Everyone’s kitchen window looks out into the commons,” she says.

“That’s the Co-housing design, so that you can be at your sink and see something happening out there and if you would like to join in, or are feeling lonely or whatever, you go out there and chat and share with what’s happening.”

And for anyone “having a bad hair day”, Mr Llewellyn says each house has a private courtyard, and a second entrance that does not open to the undulating common area.

More than 20 people now call the project home. If you’re interested in snapping up the last house – a two-floor, two bathroom, four-bedroom one – call Ms Rumble on 0428 482 015.

Photo: Pam Rumble and Paul Llewellyn tend to their emerging garden. Image: Chris Thomson