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Wood and Roofs - ARC230

Updated: May 7, 2020

The one thing that has been truly drummed into us students on the BA(Hons) Architecture RIBA 1 course at Falmouth University is the need to create homes of the future. For two years now we have been asked to consider materiality very seriously, to consider our approach to a sustainability strategy. The project reports (which can be over fifty pages long include a section on


  • Sustainability approach to context and place

  • Materials specification and source

  • Life cycle analysis

  • Design for disassembly

  • Strategies for Building Services





Here is a clip from a UK supplier that I have examined as a potential supplier for my (pretend) building; for roofs and exterior cladding and possibly for certain internal walls and ceilings:

One of the key elements of building is plaster walls which I am keen to avoid in future construction. Plaster is intended to be quicker and cheaper in construction and claims to be non-toxic in use (although, along with the facing paper, waste plaster increases significantly the toxicity and eutrophication in water and land). Gypsum is the key component of plaster and can regulate humidity through moisture absorption. It is recyclable, yet requires unique monocell landfill disposal (sometimes costly) and cafeful handling in construction to avoid injury. The production and calcination uses significant amounts of natural gas and fossil-derived electricity, plus transport of plasterboard to site and its disposal adds to embodied energy. There is also a global warming effect of burning gas for drying. Additives to the plaster 'stucco' include (more at http://www.greenspec.co.uk/building-design/plasterboard-drylining-partition/)


• Starch - protects the physical bond between gypsum crystals and facing paper during drying.

• Lignosulphates - Improves the flow of the slurry so less water is required, resulting in denser plaster.

• Potassium sulphate - Causes the gypsum to precipitate out more quickly due to a common ion effect.

• Foaming agent (detergent) - Forms a foam in the mix, resulting in a less denser plaster.

• Silicone - plasterboard is inherently vulnerable to moisture, silicone is added for use in damp conditions

• Wax - also added to provide resistance to moisture

• Vermiculite - added to specifically designated fire resistant boarding

• Glass fibre - also added to provide increased fire protection.


For this reason I have chosen to line the internal walls of the accommodation with fabric panels that would be insulated with wood fibre panels. With the clever use of LED lighting at dado level this will also help those with sensory requirements. Fabric can be replaced easily, and can be steamed clean. Natural fibres would be the most appropriate.

It seems that some, such as the heritage project winner TRA office fit-out byJosé Gutierrez Ltd 2015 in Auckland, New Zealand (see image above, bottom right) are well ahead of the UK in implementing this idea. Interesting; is it because gypsum in our soil... or that we don't have enough sheep!


Follow to the next blog for the continuing project work...


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