A Hempstead on the Sea Shore

Designed for the hurricane-prone coast of Virginia, this home had to meet very stringent permitting and engineering requirements, in addition to our clients’ expressed need for a home that would accommodate gatherings for family, friends and community. Resting on the boundary of a national park, this home is not typical of the surrounding architecture, but resides comfortably in the context of its site.

The original floor plan for this project was developed by a Virginia Beach architect, and we were approached when the decision was made to use hempcrete for the wall systems. We took over from there, and went through several more iterations of development of the floor plan and elevations before settling down into the creation of the final construction documents.

Aside from the structural and engineering issues presented by the occasional appearance of hurricanes, further careful consideration had to be given to the likelihood of flooding on what is essentially a flat site, situated just 10 feet above sea level and 1200 feet from the Atlantic Ocean. We were fortunate to have Virginia Beach civil and structural engineers on our team to assist us in addressing these challenges.

The heating and cooling system in the home is a standard heat pump with forced air delivery.  A Rumford fireplace in the living room provides radiant heat and ambiance on cold evenings. While the energy systems themselves are conventional, the hempcrete wall systems, in conjunction with carefully matched floor and roof systems, creates a highly efficient energy envelope.

Thoughtful attention to door and window types and detailed installation have resulted in a home that should prove to be unusually energy efficient.


The house has been shaping up beautifully. The builder and site manager are paying close attention to detail and have been great to work with. As of October 2015, all of the hempcrete has been plastered, masonry and trim are nearly complete, and plumbing is installed. We are very excited to see this house in its completed form. It’s always remarkable to see how much a built structure ends up looking like our renderings!

  • Designers / Architect: Alembic Studio & Gerrie West, AIA
  • General Contractor: Sykes Construction
  • Engineering: Sinclair, Pratt & Cameron
  • Civil engineering: Gallup Surveyors and Engineers
  • Landscape: Siska-Aurand