Winner of the RIBA South Sustainability award 2019, and shortlisted for the Wood Awards 2019, Cork House is designed with immense attention to detail, and is a structure of great ingenuity. Sited within the area of a Grade II listed mill house dating back to the early nineteenth century, Cork House beautifully reflects and respects the natural surroundings in form and construction. Designed, tested and developed in partnership with The Bartlett School of Architecture UCL, they have delivered a project that is the first of its kind.
An entirely cork construction, with solid structural cork walls and roof, the building has exceptionally low whole life carbon. The biogenic construction of prefabricated cork blocks and engineered timber is carbon negative at completion and has remarkably low whole life carbon. All the components can be reused or recycled, and the expanded cork blocks have been made using by-product and waste from cork forestry and the cork stopper industry. Internally, the biophilic elements such as the exposed cork and oak flooring capture the light and create a wonderfully tranquil sensory experience.
In the summer, the skylights open to bring a sense of lightness to the space and in the winter the snug interiors emanate a sense of warmth and protection. As sustainability is becoming integral to all construction, this development pushes us further to look beyond the requirements and aspire to really integrate humanity with nature.
An incredible feat by the architects to achieve such a delicately intriguing home that sits humbly amongst its surroundings; the whole house is ‘designed for disassembly’ and can be constructed by hand. MPH Architects and the collaborative team, which includes not only The Bartlett School of Architecture UCL but also The University of Bath, Amorim UK, Ty-Mawr the BRE and consultants Arup and BRE, have done something special with this project. The detailing is very clever, and the structure draws upon ancient inspiration, harking back to a time when humans and nature were more intertwined.
To connect the family that live there with their garden, a stepped internal landscape was created that defined different uses within a larger family space through changes in floor level. And so a kitchen, dining space and informal seating area are defined by their own datum. The cork also achieves all required U-vales without the need for any additional expanded foam insulation. It absorbs noise internally, is breathable, free from synthetic resins, chemicals or carcinogenic materials and fully compostable. Pink windows provide a flash of colour against the cork and the warm hues are carried internally to the kitchen and first floor family bathroom. Internally a pale grey resin floor finish allowed a continuous surface over both horizontal and vertical surfaces. The house, including the new master bedroom and en suite on loft level and the renovated 1st floor is defined by bold colours and patterns reflecting the playfulness of both design team and clients.
Form, function and footprint are all equally considered and respected. This is a truly well thought through home that inspires those that are lucky enough to visit; it is a noble, momentous model to aspire to.