Hemp hotel: 12-story hempcrete block is world’s tallest building made from cannabis plant

New 54-room hotel promises views of Cape Town’s Table Mountain and a “minimal ecological footprint”.
Loukia Papadopoulos
The world's tallest hemp building.jpg
The world's tallest hemp hotel.


A new 12-story, 54-room hotel scheduled to open in Cape Town, South Africa, is being hailed as the world’s tallest building made with industrial hemp. As such, it promises views of Cape Town’s massive Table Mountain and a “minimal ecological footprint,” according to a report by Agence France-Presse (AFP) published in May.

The appropriately named Hemp Hotel consists of “hempcrete” blocks made from woody parts of hemp plants and supported by a cement-and-concrete structure. The hempcrete lends insulating and fireproof properties to the building.

According to the National Ready Mixed Concrete Association, each pound of concrete releases 0.93 pounds of carbon dioxide. In addition, building materials are responsible for 11 percent of global carbon emissions.

For these reasons, the building industry continues to look for ways to lower its carbon footprint. Along with many other biomaterials like mycelium and algae, hemp is gaining popularity as one of the world's most sustainable materials.

As such, replacing any portion of a building’s concrete can help reduce the building’s impact on the planet, mainly if replaced with hempcrete that locks carbon in.

Hempcrete pulls more carbon pollution out of the air than it releases and is, considered carbon negative.

“The plant absorbs the carbon, it gets put into a block, and [it] is then stored into a building for 50 years or longer,” Boshoff Muller, director of Afrimat Hemp (the company producing the hempcrete for the hotel), told AFP

Hemp can be expensive to build with but lends itself to the possibility of selling carbon credits. 

In South Africa, President Cyril Ramaphosa believes hemp and cannabis are slowly but surely finding their place in the construction industry and can offer an opportunity to create more than 130,000 jobs, Africanews reported.

Meanwhile, Afrimat Hemp now hopes to make blocks with hemp grown in the country. The Hemp Hotel illustrates the many possibilities of the industry. “It shows hemp has its place in the construction sector,” Muller told AFP.

In December of 2021, a French architecture and landscaping company from Croissy-Beaubourg completed the country’s first hempcrete public building: Pierre Chevet sports hall.

The 4,000-square-foot (380 square meters) building includes an exercise hall and changing rooms.

Researcher Darshil Shah, the Centre for Natural Material Innovation at Cambridge, said hemp could capture carbon twice as effectively as a forest of trees.

"Numerous studies estimate that hemp is one of the best CO2-to-biomass converters. It's even more effective than trees. Industrial hemp absorbs between 8 to 15 tonnes of CO2 per hectare of cultivation," noted Shah.

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