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How to use rooflights to perform a structural function

The five bio-renewable cork block 'beehives' at Matthew Barnett Howland's multi award-winning project in Berkshire are anchored in place by skylights

In association with
Cork House in Eton, Berkshire by Matthew Barnett Howland, Dido Milne and Oliver Wilton: 'A noble, momentous model'.
Cork House in Eton, Berkshire by Matthew Barnett Howland, Dido Milne and Oliver Wilton: 'A noble, momentous model'. Credit: Phil Broom

When architects Matthew Barnett Howland, Dido Milne and Oliver Wilton set out to create an innovative new home built almost entirely from cork, they faced an unusual challenge - how to keep the single bio-renewable cork blocks weighted down.

Working in collaboration with the design team at The Rooflight Co, they came up with a clever solution to use the rooflights as ‘structural paperweights’.

Cork House is a response to modern architecture’s impact on biodiversity and climate change. Designed, tested and developed in partnership with The Bartlett School of Architecture UCL, the award-winning design uses a whole-life approach to sustainability, proving a new building really can be carbon negative at completion.

In fact, the whole-life carbon is 85 per cent less than a typical new-build. With a design resembling a beehive, the building is completely free of cement, glue, plastic insulation, plaster or render so it can be easily dismantled, reused or recycled.

  • The Rooflight Co's five Conservation Plateau Rooflights provide ventilation, light and weight.
    The Rooflight Co's five Conservation Plateau Rooflights provide ventilation, light and weight. Credit: Ricky Jones
  • The pyramidal stepped roofs create a pattern of dark and light that opens up to the skies.
    The pyramidal stepped roofs create a pattern of dark and light that opens up to the skies. Credit: Alex de Rijke
  • The whole house is designed for disassembly.
    The whole house is designed for disassembly. Credit: Magnus Dennis
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Specifying for weight, structure and ventilation

The monolithic walls and corbelled roofs are constructed almost entirely from solid load-bearing cork. Built using a dry jointed system with nothing holding it in place other than its self-weight, the design needed a structural paperweight to hold the cork blocks together.

This is where the rooflights provided an innovative dual solution. Typically, the baseplate of a rooflight slots over a timber kerb on the roof. In this instance, the baseplate slotted over the top cork block. Not only does this create a weathertight seal for the roof, it also acts as a weight for the cork blocks below.

Additionally, the baseplate of the rooflight was also critical to the design due to the thickness of the walls. The architect’s brief called for glazing over the internal hole only, which meant the skirt also became a crucial weatherproofing detail.

Sitting at the top of the pyramid structures, the rooflights create a stacked ventilation system that is easily operated with the motorised opening system.

Using natural light as a design feature

The architects selected The Rooflight Co’s bespoke Conservation Plateau Rooflights to provide a juxtaposition to the dark cork walls.

By using regularly placed rooflights, the internal space is illuminated from above, creating a strong light and dark rhythm with a series of light and dark steps.

The result is a beautiful, individual and sustainable building, nestled  into its surroundings on the banks of the River Thames.

With form, function and footprint all equally considered and respected, Cork House won multiple awards in 2019, including the RIBA South and South Sustainability Awards, the RIBA National Award and Stephen Lawrence Prize, as well as being shortlisted for the RIBA Stirling Prize.

Find more on this case study at therooflightco.com/case-studies/cork-house

For more information and technical support, visit therooflightco.com


Contact:
01993 833155 
hello@therooflightco.com


 

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