Considered use of real materials, used honestly and effectively in combinations, form a guiding principle for all of our buildings. We use locally sourced and sustainable materials wherever possible. These materials give buildings ‘soul’ and ‘tie them to a particular place’.
The reality of contemporary construction is that these materials are almost always used in conjunction with a modern method of construction such as cavity blockwork or stick timber frame. The skill is to use natural materials where they will affect the look and feel of a building and modern methods of construction to achieve good levels of thermal insulation at reasonable economic cost.
We have used new materials for ambitious clients (eg. straw bale, various kinds of unbaked earth), but they must be up for that kind of a journey.
I’m an expert in the sustainable use of native timbers such as oak, chestnut and larch. Knowing how to identify, harvest and season these timbers helps to understand their structural qualities and durability for a building, whether it’s a traditional mortice and tenon oak frame or a modernist bridge.
Other materials that I know well include the art of cob walling which I reintroduced into Cornwall in 1996 and I have pioneered earth bricks in modern cavity construction. My workshop built one of the first one and a half storey structural straw bale houses in the country.
Local stone, reclaimed brick and lime mortars/plasters are a common specification.
I’m excited by the visible use of modern materials such as stainless steel wires or reinforced concrete poured in-situ where clients have the courage to use them.
We’ve also used Insulated Concrete Formwork (known as ICF systems) at the request of a client for an underground house. We rise to most challenges!