Self build project Cork House has finished runner-up for the Riba Stirling Prize, raising awareness of the inspiring self build projects being developed across the UK. 

The Riba Stirling Prize is awarded each year by the Royal Institute of British Architects to the UK’s best new building.

The first-of-its-kind Cork House was in the running to scoop the prestigious gong, but the ambitious project narrowly missed out to Goldsmith Street, an eco-friendly council estate made up of almost 100 ultra low-energy homes for Norwich City Council.

However, Cork House did not come away empty-handed this week. The house received the 2019 Stephen Lawrence Prize, which rewards the best projects with a construction budget of less than £1m.

Marco Goldschmied, founder of the Stephen Lawrence Prize founder said: “Cork House is a unique fusion of ancient construction methods and cutting-edge technical research to produce a highly innovative, low carbon solution with a wide variety of applications from mass housing to emergency shelters.”

Almost No Carbon Emissions

Cork House in Berkshire is, as the title suggests, made almost entirely from cork. It was constructed entirely by hand from expanded cork blocks, made using cork stopper waste. All of its components can be recycled or reused and remarkably, the structure will emit almost no carbon over its lifetime. 

C) Ricky Jones

This is particularly fitting as, earlier this year, the construction and building industries were challenged to slash their carbon emissions, and one of the major benefits of self building is being able to design in eco-friendly measures from the start to help reduce energy usage in the long-term.

How Was Cork House Built?

Cork House, which is set in the grounds of a Grade II-listed nineteenth century mill house, is made from solid load-bearing cork — a bio-renewable material — and is exciting from a self build perspective as it was built using a highly-innovative construction kit.

The kit comprises expanded cork blocks and engineered timber components which are prefabricated off-site, then assembled by hand on-site without glue or mortar. 

The construction is designed for disassembly — the process of easily reusing components at the end of their lifecycle — meaning the house is carbon-negative at completion, maintaining a supremely low whole life carbon.

Cork House was designed by Mathew Barnett Howland of CSK Architects, Dido Milne and Oliver Wilton, in partnership with The Bartlett School of Architecture UCL.

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