Roundwood framing update – ecohut

roundwood updateSince last year’s blog on Adrian Leaman’s roundwood timber framing course, I have had the pleasure to be involved with the live project of fellow roundwooder Ellen Scrimgeour. This is the construction of a small shelter for children from Highgate Primary School to use at their self-maintained allotment site nearby. The building will be used as a focus for teaching and site activities, including learning about natural building techniques and materials.

By the time I got involved with the project there had already been a lot of hurdles overcome, including the school being given permission to use the allotment, which is already yielding a fine crop through the regular efforts of pupils, their teachers and parents. The exact size and shape of the building then needed to be agreed with the allotment community and management, and materials sourced and site set up.

Whilst modest in size, the building has been designed to showcase the natural building methods used, and is rich in details, handcrafted joints and other unique features that make this little hut a labour of love, rather than a hastily thrown together shed. As with most materials used in the project, the logs for the roundwood structure were kindly donated by forest management taking place in local urban woodland.

The building is formed around a series of four A-frames, to which are attached wall posts, ridge poles, wall plates to complete the building structure. The small scale of the structure has reinforced the notion that this is a building designed for children, with planned split level seating inside creating a cosy and enjoyable space. The walls, from natural wattle and daub, will incorporate salvaged windows and recycled glass bottle lights punctuating the earth walls. A terrace shelters the entrance, the overhanging roof shingled in oak as with the main roof of the hut, again from locally sourced wood hand cleaved on site.

The roundwood timber framing course went a long way to equip us with the necessary skills to carry out the frame construction, however we found that the application into a real project has made sense of and added to the knowledge gained. Further courses at the wonderful Orchard Barn project in suffolk (www.orchardbarn.org.uk), have also helped fill in the gaps. The small scale of the structure also present a challenge with this type of construction. The overlapping “bypass” joints create angles within a frame that is ideally on one plane, and this is magnified on the smaller structure.

After several months of working the individual frame joints, a large group of volunteers, friends and family gathered together to lift the frame sections into place, temporarily securing them with additional timber, which we are now in the process of replacing with the permanent bracing in roundwood. You can see a video of the frame raising process at http://bit.ly/1GXyq9X. This was an immensely satisfying moment in the construction, where months of patient preparation with little to show really paid off with the ease that the frame sections fitted together and matched each other.

The focus of the project has not only been on the building or the pupils as the eventual end users, but the building process itself, involving the help of the pupils, their parents and teachers, children from local schools and other volunteers. For more information on the project please e-mail naturalbuildingsuk@gmail.com.