Cork House is something you simply don’t see everyday, in-fact its the first of its kind made almost entirely from solid load-bearing cork. Its distinctive structural form and sensory environments are the results of a whole life approach to architecture, in which environmental sustainability is embedded into every stage of a building’s lifecycle. With a focus on what is solid, simple, and sustainable, the project is an inventive response to the complexities and conventions of modern house construction.
Designed by Matthew Barnett Howland + Dido Milne + Oliver Wilton, rather than the typical building envelope the Cork House is the result of an attempt to radically simplify the building envelope. Designed and built as a prefabricated kit-of-parts, blocks of expanded cork are easily assembled by hand without mortar or glue, like an oversized organic Lego system.
This highly innovative form of plant-based construction has resulted in a building that is carbon negative at completion.
The research project also developed a method of off-site prefabrication, with blocks for the house machined on a large-scale 5-axis CNC milling machine. Cork House embodies a strong whole life approach to sustainability, from resource through to end-of-life. Expanded cork is a pure plant-based material made with a by-product of cork forestry. The bark of the cork oak is harvested by hand every nine years without harming the tree or disturbing the forest. This gentle agro-industry sustains the Mediterranean cork oak landscapes, providing a rich biodiverse habitat that is widely recognised.