‘There is a forest in my backyard but my house is built from trees grown far away’
Europe’s ambitious home-building and retrofit plans will require vast quantities of materials. The majority are fossil-fuel intensive products such as concrete, steel and plastic-derived insulation, often transported great distances from source to site. The general public are largely unaware of the environmental impact, partly because, unlike in the past, they do not have a direct input into the design and construction of their homes and communities.
We propose a framework for an alternative participatory, circular process in which citizens can construct small-scale buildings or adapt or extend their own homes.
We developed a prototype pavilion to test this idea, which was presented as part of an Irish-Estonian exhibition entitled Wood Works. This was a trans-disciplinary collaboration between our office, RBA, and Estonian studio, Creatomus Solutions. RBA designed the pavilion and Creatomus Solutions designed a carbon configurator app – an online tool to that illustrates the environmental impact of different material options.
Our exhibition pavilion and app were exhibited in the Solstice Gallery in Navan, Co. Meath, Ireland. An extensive learning and engagement programme includes seminars, tours and workshops. The exhibition will travel to Tallin, Estonia for inclusion in their architecture Biennale in September 2022.
It is hoped that our Butterfly Building will inspire other designers and communities to adopt more circular and participatory modes of thinking. We believe that this could lead to a rich and varied form of architecture and re-connect people with the art of building. It would also allow citizens to play a hands-on role in building their communities while helping to mitigate the global climate and biodiversity crisis.
Design for disassembly.
The Butterfly Building process promotes an architecture of economy. It creates tactile interiors that are sensual to the touch and warm in atmosphere.
Our exhibition pavilion is an embodiment of this approach, which is based on an efficient use of resources in which the use of steel and concrete is minimized or eliminated.
The structural timber frame is a skeleton onto which other building components would be fixed. These components, sourced from existing material streams wherever possible, would create variety in shape, surface and colour depending on the availability of cladding, fenestration and roofing materials.
Our framework is non-prescriptive, as it encourages the adoption of a set of principles, rather than a certain design style or aesthetic. Designs are driven by deep user participation with the assistance of our configurator app as an educational and decision-making tool.
The form, character and expression of the buildings that emerge from this process are driven by the need for an efficient layout, a structural system appropriate to the local supplies of timber and the availability of existing building components.
Download our Assembly & Disassembly Manual