The Machynlleth House CAT

Self-build under the guidance of Jon Broome, Architype, 1993

The development of post and beam timber-frame building owes a great deal to the architect Walter Segal. He refined the building process to make it accessible to all and today his Segal Method is popular with selfbuilders. The Machynlleth House at the Centre for Alternative Technology demonstrates that a low-cost simple Segal construction can incorporate energy-saving features. The Centre arranged a self-build course for eight participants, who had no prior building knowledge. After 10 days of intensive work - under guidance - the structure was complete, under cover and partly enclosed.

The sandwich forming the walls differs from other Segal houses to give higher insulation.

As well as being exceptionally well insulated, it incorporates a south-facing, passive solar conservatory extending the full width of the house. This acts as a buffer between the inside and outside of the building, and provides pre-heated ventilation air.

The core of the sandwich is 100mm of extruded, expanded polystyrene, which has a closed cell structure and includes a sheet of polythene between the core and the internal plasterboard lining, to reduce the infiltration of cold air. The building also includes solar panels for hot water heating. A woodburning stove provides back-up.

Photo: the author

Case Study 1.8:

Andersen House, Stavanger, Norway

Architects: Dag Roalkvam and Rolf Jacobsen, 1984

This 210m2 wood and stone pentagonal building is the first modern example of the moisture transfusive wall, a construction technique that is now increasing in popularity.

It was designed and built by Dag Roalkvam and Rolf Jacobsen, now of Gaia Norway, in 1984. It was constructed avoiding the use of materials known to contain toxic substances, in keeping with the Gaia architectural philosophy, and was designed with passive air exchange.

It is zoned for temperature with all the warm rooms facing south and cold rooms facing

northwest and prevailing wind. A greenhouse on one side of the house provides pre-warmed air.

It has a double skin - or raincoat - hanging 600mm away from the walls on the weather facing sides. This sacrificial wall keeps wind away from the main walls. This wooden skin is broken by gaps to admit light to the windows.

On the south-west aspect a double-height, central room with a glazed external wall acts as an intermediate space, providing light and solar heat to the adjoining rooms through internal windows.

Photo: Dag Roalkvam
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