Architects built a sustainable, plant-based house, which can be recycled at the end of its life. In the historic UK town of Eton, in Berkshire, stands a house made entirely from cork.
Built partly by hand, the one-bedroom house — located in a private garden — has an open plan kitchen, a living room, bathroom, and another sleeping space in the roof.
Architect Dido Milne gave international news publication Reuters a tour of the new sustainable home, which has been shortlisted for the Royal Institute of British Architects (RIBA) Sterling Prize.
He said, “it smells of the cork forest, it’s got a very distinct smell. The walls are really warm to the touch and the acoustic is very soft, being pure plant-based material.”
Cork is an incredibly sustainable material; it’s renewable, recyclable, natural, and biodegradable, and can be used to make a multitude of products, from accessories to wine toppers.
According to the Cork Forest Conservation Alliance, it can be harvested in a way that is kind to the environment too. Trees do not need to be cut down to obtain cork, every nine years, the bark is stripped from the trees, which can live on for hundreds of years.
To build the house, cork granules were heated up and compressed into building blocks. “These were cut using 3D milling so the blocks interlocked,” said Reuters, “removing the need for glue or cement.”
The Carbon Footprint of a Cork House
The house also has a low carbon footprint; its whole life carbon — measured across the build, maintenance, and overall use of the building — is 15 percent lower than the average new-build.
“The building has exceptionally low whole-life carbon,” says RIBA on its website. “The biogenic construction of prefabricated cork blocks and engineered timber is carbon negative at completion and has remarkably low whole-life carbon.”
It continues, “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.”
Cork is not just a sustainable material, but it’s a practical one too. It has thermal properties, meaning the house will stay warm throughout the UK’s chilly winter. When the house is no longer needed, it can be disassembled and the blocks can be recycled or even composted.