Moroccan and German students build a home out of hemp and solar panels

Part of the ‘Solar Decathlon’ competition, the project has received praise for its sustainability and technology.

A circular home designed and built by a group of Moroccan and German students called SUNIMPLANT, uses hemp and solar panels for its main construction materials. Created as part of the ‘Solar Decathlon’ competition, launched by the United States Department of Energy and Morocco’s Centre de recherche en Energie solaire et Energies nouvelles, the project spans 90 square metres and features 24 photovoltaic solar panels.

The sustainable house was constructed using locally sourced hemp, as well as vegetable-based bio-resins and other non-synthetic local materials. Evocative of a space-ship, the building offers an example of hemp construction, and is designed primarily for rural regions.

According to Monika Brümmer, the lead architect on the team, the cylindrical envelope of the building “gives interior comfort through optimal damping and thermal phase shift,” as well as “osmosis of the components in the hempcrete formulation”.

Hempcrete, which can also be called canobiote, canosmose or isochanvre, is becoming increasingly popular in construction, and has been used in France since 1990. Made of hemp, earth, pozzolan and lime, the material is easier to work with than traditional lime mixes, and serves as an insulator and moisture regulator. Hempcrete is also less brittle than concrete, and is becoming a popular alternative for fiberglass, sheetrock and drywall.

While the house’s double skin facade consists of the hempcrete mix, other technologies used in its construction include the bio-composites produced via vacuum injection technology; the spherical, aerodynamic outer skin made up of 24 semi-flexible photovoltaic panels; the hemp wool used on the back of the panels to protect them from extreme heat, and high-performance glass from French company Saint Gobain.

The house by SUNIMPLANT costs $120,000 to build — less than half of the other entries submitted to the competition.