Hemp is used in hundreds of products, but here’s a new one: a hemp wine cellar.
Château Maris, a bio-dynamic and organic French winery, has created a net-zero energy building by using bricks made from organic hemp and lime. Topped by a green roof with solar panels, it produces as much energy as it consumes.
It’s not uncommon for people who are new to organic and biodynamic wines to query the extent to which a wine estate can be ‘completely’ organic. Surely, they ask, the organic commitment begins and ends in the vineyard?
Well no – and especially not at Château Maris.
The Domaine was keen to build a winery (chais) that embraced all that was good about new technology whilst not neglecting proven, traditional winemaking practices.
The chais has been built with hemp lime bricks that are supported by a wooden structure. The materials are, for the most part, vegetal and a renewable resource. They emit no gases that are bad for your health health, no dust allergens and no static electricity. Equally, they regulate moisture effectively.
The bricks create a 9,000-square-foot wine cellar that’s both energy self-sufficient and biodegradable. They not only maintain consistent temperature and humidity, they also absorb carbon from the surrounding environment. And there’s no need for systems that heat, cool or ventilate the structure.
Hemp has amazing qualities – the material both insulates and is « breathable » – keeping the building warm in winter and cool in the summer at a consistent 54°-63°F. Two exterior walls connected by an air tunnel also insulated against extreme temperatures. If more airflow is needed to lower the heat created by fermentation, there’s a manual duct in the cellar’s roof that can be opened and closed.
Hemp doesn’t require irrigation or fertilizers and its rapid root growth creates good soil structure, controlling erosion. They are using hemp straw – what’s left after the crop is made into an assortment of products from rope to clothes to paper. It’s inexpensive because Europe provides some subsidies for the crop and it fit the bill for low-carbon transport because hemp farms are nearby.
Even better, the hemp bricks are very light, making them easy to transport. A two-foot thick brick weighs 33 pounds. And when lime is added to harden hemp straw into bricks, the chemical transformation into limestone carbonate captures and sequesters carbon.
They basically created a biodegradable building that sequesters carbon – an estimated 44 kilos per square meter – for the next 20-25 years.
Château Maris is applying for American standard LEED-Platinum certification.Along with the novel hemp construction, Maris takes advantage of many other green building practices: The 15,000-case winery was built into the hillside, with a soil-topped roof planted with local vegetation that needs little water. To minimize water consumption, the winery collects rainwater and recycles its gray water by filtering it through a natural pond system. Low-consumption LEDs are used for all the lighting. Future plans call for a windmill and solar panels to provide all of the winery’s power and the addition of a hemp-based visitor center and a garden. The roof of the office and tasting building will support 380m2 of photovoltaic solar panels capable of producing 49kwc/an. Along with the building’s efficiency, the complex will produce as much energy as it consumes, as well as stocking CO2 to counter any emissions in the winemaking process