When he started planning a new winery for Château Maris in southern France’s Languedoc region, Robert Eden looked at natural options such as stone, rammed earth and even straw. What he ended up choosing was something that, at least in certain crowds, elicits quips about marijuana—hemp. But it’s no joke: The new Maris winery is built almost entirely from large, sturdy “bricks” of organic hemp straw. Those bricks not only reduced carbon emissions from construction, they also continue to capture carbon dioxide from their surroundings.
“This is the first winery in the world like this,” claimed Eden of the 9,000-square-foot building, finished just in time for the 2012 harvest after eight years of work, five of them devoted to planning and research. “We’re in unknown waters here.”
Hemp—low-THC varieties of the cannabis plant with negligible psychoactive properties—has been used to build houses in Australia, Europe, South Africa and, just recently, in the United States, even though growing it and producing it industrially is illegal in many states. However, hemp is still rare for larger buildings. Eden hopes that other wineries can learn from Maris and use hemp bricks for future construction.
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