The regional office in Litoměřice district last week gave a building permit for a structure built of hemp. Petr Žáček has been building the house illegally in the village of Podviní for the last eight years.
The rounded structure, with three pieces of hemp bundles was under threat several times in the past. Žáček had to persuade the local building office not to tear it down. Czech laws don’t include hemp in the list of acceptable building materials, so the construction of a dwelling made of hemp is illegal. In order to gain a building permit, moreover, it’s necessary to have appropriate documentation rubber stamped by the architect or builder, and Žáček didn’t have these.
The philosophy of a vaulted roof
“I stopped quoting my rights and freedoms, that ensure artistic freedom and the freedom to conduct scientific research, and we made an agreement,” says the eccentric man. He promised the office he wouldn’t reject all artificial building materials and that he will build a sloping roof rather than a round one in order to comply with the zoning plan. “From a philosophical standpoint, doing away with the vaulted roof is a big change,” says Žáček without specifying further. He says a sloping roof has its advantages because he can count solar panels on it and use the generated electricity for his home.
Žáček significantly changed his construction plans twice already. Some of his building methods are still untested, so it is often a matter of trial and error. “I took it apart twice because there were various fatal flaws,” he says.
The result of his work does not, for now, seem like a place where you could live. Jiří X. Doležal, a pro-marihuana activist, described Žáček’s house in magazine Reflex as “something between a West African mud hut and a teepee made of reed”.
A five-year limit
The hemp builder now has a five-year deadline to create other experiments. The building office gave him three years to finish the structure and another two to test out its functionality.
In the past, Žáček grew much of the hemp for his house. He says this year, the hemp he grew should be sufficient to build the walls. Rather than using traditional plaster, he wants to use a mixture of loam, sand and water.
“I want to use local materials,” says the dark-haired man, who for now lives in a garden shed near his “experiment”. His goal is to create a cheap, energy-efficient house. He estimates that building costs should not exceed CZK 800,000. Monthly operational costs should not amount to more than CZK 1,000.
If Žáček is able to adhere to building regulations, he would like to some day make a living building similar houses. If not, he will demolish the building at his own expense at the end of the five-year period.