Studio Bark designed and built Warren Lodge with a team of architecture students across the UK.
How were you commissioned?:
David Levitt OBE, founder of Levitt Bernstein Architects and figurehead of UK housing design, initially approached Studio Bark on a consultancy basis as he wanted to build a traditional timber barn with exceptional environmental credentials. After working closely with David, the role then evolved into the Design & Build of a prototype low energy, low impact timber frame form; he was particularly supportive of us constructing the barn ourselves with a team of architecture students across the UK - most of whom had never picked up a tool before.
What was the brief from the client and how much were they involved?:
The construction of a low energy, low impact timber frame barn using only UK sourced materials. The client was very involved from all stages of the project. Studio Bark and the students benefited greatly from his decades' worth of knowledge of housing design and construction.
How did the brief affect the materials and design choices?:
One of the main concepts behind the project is bringing together a network of local sources to build low embodied energy buildings, low impact buildings with low embodied CO2 that are also akin to their traditional environment through sourcing materials more sustainably and more locally. All the building materials were sourced within the UK; the structural whitewood timber was Grown in Britain licensed and FSC certified, the clay roof tiles were handmade in the UK as were the trusses, the custom steel gussets were locally made, while the barn was clad in reclaimed bricks and local Douglas fir. Internally, the building has been left unfinished, exposing the insulation and enhancing the impact of the two large exposed timber trusses.
How did your previous experience help you with this project?:
Studio Bark had previously run a number of similar student live-build projects as part of University of East London's Construction Week. At Warren Lodge, members of the Studio Bark Projects team ate, slept and lived on site with the students over an intense two month period, teaching them how to use tools and work with each other, arranging tutorials with consultants and suppliers on site so they could pass on their best practice knowledge to the students.
Can you explain the layout of the project:
Surrounded by quintessential Norfolk countryside, the remote site is located on a former rabbit warren, accessible only by a long winding track. Warren Lodge is a traditional Norfolk barn form with a Dutch-style kick in the roof however, the innovation lies in the detailing.
What problems or challenges did you face?:
Teaching and training the students was the greatest challenge. Most had never previously worked with hand tools before and had only a theoretical knowledge of construction (if any).
What do you feel were the most unusual design elements of the project?:
All of the building components were UK or locally sourced, resulting in structure with exceptionally low embodied energy.
How do you think this project is pushing design forward? What makes it special?:
The project bridged the gap between education and practice, as graduates can leave university with little knowledge of materials, technical detailing or construction terminology. Opening up the construction of Warren Lodge as a student build project meant that Studio Bark could to pass on these practical and professional skills. The students learned how to run a site and programme, interpret drawings, gain 'hands-on' carpentry, joinery and roofing skills, environmental design and using materials responsible - all on an actual project for a high profile client; with very real budgets and deadlines. "I think that architectural students these days, particularly in the era of Design & Build and particularly working for the larger architectural practices, get almost no experience at all of what it's like to work on site, what the issues are and we hope this will be a really invaluable experience for them... because it's most unlikely that they'll get it anywhere else." - David Levitt OBE, Client, Warren Lodge
Please provide details of product names and suppliers where possible.:
BSW Timber - structural timber Wienerberger - handmade clay pan tiles Timby Traditional Roofing Back to Earth - natural wood fibre insulation Midland Lead - lead Coillte SmartPly OSB Anson Timber Works Eastern Counties Sawmilling Berry Hall Woodlands Whole House Energy Travis Perkins Ridgeons Jewson
All images © Studio Bark