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Winning ‘Thousand Huts’ design unveiled

August 16 2012

Winning ‘Thousand Huts’ design unveiled
City Architecture Office has won an open design competition to create a modest retreat, part of the ‘Thousand Huts’ campaign organised by Reforesting Scotland.

The Timbabox Hut will be constructed from locally sourced home grown timber and employs a frame system custom built by the design team that can be erected on lightweight pad foundations and is fully customisable for a range of size, cladding and glazing options.

It will be self-sufficient with low energy demands thanks to a high degree of insulation and natural daylight, at just 3 tonnes it can also be easily transported and could be assembled and made weathertight within 24 hours.

Moray Royles, Director at City Architecture Office says, “ We designed the Hut to be a simple affordable building that encourages living in the landscape. We are excited for the potential to see this developed in appropriate locations around the UK and to support the Thousand Huts Campaign. The Timbabox Hut emerged from our ongoing research of innovative technologies to make effective use of homegrown timber.”

Reforesting Scotland director Ninian Stuart said, “City Architecture Office has created a wonderful, simple building for people who are seeking a rural retreat for living, working and recreation in the countryside. Building such huts with local timber can revive skills that all rural communities once took for granted and strengthen community resilience.”

The cabin cannot be built however until an appropriate site can be found and funding secured.
The hut makes use of timber which is not otherwise suitable for construction purposes
The hut makes use of timber which is not otherwise suitable for construction purposes
The proposal was a headline exhibit at the 2012 Big Tent Festival
The proposal was a headline exhibit at the 2012 Big Tent Festival


Douglas Dalgleish
#1 Posted by Douglas Dalgleish on 16 Aug 2012 at 13:20 PM
It will be interesting to see how our unreconstructed planning system reacts to this. The ensuing debate may highlight the need for change. Such modest buildings should be considered normal, not treated as non-compliant development aberrations in rural and urban Scotland.
#2 Posted by Martin on 16 Aug 2012 at 17:41 PM
Perhaps I'm missing something here but how is the family (2 adults and 2 children pictured) going to live in a one bed cabin? I'm all for sustainable solutions but they need to be practical. How are the children going to get to school and mum and dad to work - catch a bus with the existing rural service, unless of course they are all employed locally as foresters, etc. Is there a sustainable demand? There are a good few things to consider here...
Hutting for holidays
#3 Posted by Hutting for holidays on 16 Aug 2012 at 18:54 PM
I thought hutting was just for weekends and holidays, and more about outdoor lifestyles than working and permanent living. Interested how building control will respond though, full domestic regs might apply...
Jimbob Tanktop
#4 Posted by Jimbob Tanktop on 17 Aug 2012 at 00:11 AM
If we're serious in Scotland about adopting this from Scandinavia, then it will hopefully spark a reconnection between people and the land, and ultimately lead to wholesale land reform.

It's difficult to develop, in even the most sustainable manner, if most of the land is used as a theme park retreat by many absentee owners. This idea of a Scotland-that-never-was, preserved in aspic for the benefit of the few, has permeated every aspect of our rural communities, from planning departments down. If an excellent idea such as this is vetoed because of building control or because it doesn't fit some council's narrative of 'appropriateness' then we'll collectively shrivel a little more.

Time for the brave pills.
#5 Posted by C on 17 Aug 2012 at 09:25 AM
Well done Moray!
Douglas Dalgleish
#6 Posted by Douglas Dalgleish on 20 Aug 2012 at 16:39 PM
'Hutting for' has identified that a lesser class of development needs to be recognised. The prescriptive conventional standards into which Hutting does not fit should be changed in line with the reality on the ground. If planning and building control are to be relevant, they need to change. Hutting in Scotland, as in other countries, has a longer history than planning or building control. The post-WW2 development controls ignore a longstanding and widespread aspiration to connect directly with nature by living amongst it. Why is it considered acceptable to sleep in a flimsy fabric tent, but not in a more durable structure?
'Jimbob' makes a good point, and we need to follow through with this. Each hut may be unique, but there are thousands of individuals who would love to build one. Don't ask, just begin building the first thousand huts. Let the planners and professional conformists discover their irrelevance later.
Whose country is this anyway?
#7 Posted by CadMonkey on 21 Aug 2012 at 20:18 PM
I would be genuinely interested to know how the stair/ladder access to the first floor bedroom complies with Scottish Building Regulations. Any guidance offered?
Douglas Dalgleish
#8 Posted by Douglas Dalgleish on 22 Aug 2012 at 14:52 PM
CadMonkey provides an example of the problem. If an element of a modest structure such as a hut does not comply with a particular building regulation devised for conventional homes or offices, should the hut be modified, or should a more appropriate regulation be applied?
#9 Posted by CadMonkey on 22 Aug 2012 at 22:06 PM
I don't see the problem you refer to. This "hut" is to provide family accommodation, adults and kids will be using it. Presumably the building regulations serve a purpose and those in particular related to staircase design are based on ergonomic design to ensure, as best possible, safe passage between floors? Why should this hut be treated any differently from another dwelling? The onus is on the designer to give good reason to justify a departure from the regs. Is there one? If so I am genuinely interested to hear it.
Douglas Dalgleish
#10 Posted by Douglas Dalgleish on 23 Aug 2012 at 13:03 PM
Thank you CadMonkey. The problem is the prescriptive nature of building regulations. Your version is better. "To ensure safe passage between floors". That's fine, flexible, and functional. It does not enforce prescribed dimensions devised for other situations. So how do we get the building regulations amended to allow a more flexible approach for huts? To straight-jacket the design of huts to fit regulations devised for other structures is a narrow-minded approach to design. Such a stifling approach would limit innovation and render the vernacular designs of pre-regulation Scotland useless. This amounts to the willful self-denial of our building history. That is not the kind of progress I want to see. Or are you a believer in regulatory infallibility?
#11 Posted by winston on 23 Aug 2012 at 15:24 PM
I think we all know the problems with the way the regulations are applied, but surely part of a competition entry should be that the hut complies with current regulations, so that the client isn't left with a competition winning scheme which can't be built?
Not taking anything away from the competition or this scheme as both are interesting, would be even more interesting to see if they can manage to have a different set of regulations made for (or applied to) this type of building
Douglas Dalgleish
#12 Posted by Douglas Dalgleish on 23 Aug 2012 at 20:23 PM
Winston, while I agree that a competition-winning building design should be capable of construction, if it happens to reveal the inadequacy of constraining regulation, it is doubly useful.
A different set of regulations for this type of building would be desirable. Even better would be a straightforward exemption. If exemption would be too radical for 'local' authorities to contemplate, we could settle for a temporary exemption for a trial period to observe the outcomes. That would measure the need, occupy a few staff in consultations and report writing, and cost very little.
#13 Posted by winston on 24 Aug 2012 at 09:26 AM
I disagree with that - did the client running the competition ask for something that could be built or something that will highlight problems in the scottish building regulations?!
I bet a lot of people that entered that competition and took regulations into consideration are kicking themselves they didn't just disregard the known constraints in favour of something that would be more compact on plan and section but doesn't comply with the building regulations.
(although this article was the first i'd seen of the competition or campaign - so maybe there weren't too many entries...)
Rem Koolbag
#14 Posted by Rem Koolbag on 24 Aug 2012 at 11:03 AM
Is the clue not in the title? It's a hut - not a house. I go to my shed in the garden (when I've been naughty) but dont expect it to have a disabled accessible bathroom and a predetermined number of power sockets in it. I also dont expect it to come under such scrutiny that would probably require it to provide a couple of car parking spaces and a full planning application.

This is a design for a HUT - albeit one that people can live in. I spent a very comfortable week in a converted shed on the west coast recently (for pleasure - not punishment) and its stair was steep and connected to the kitchen. It didnt provide adequate space at the top of the stair nor did its aggregate value of going/rise etc meet current standards. We survived.

Now if you want to start thinking about disability discrimination, then perhaps the winning entry could be adapted to provide a good mix of units, but at this stage of any design, not all aspects are totally worked out.
#15 Posted by winston on 24 Aug 2012 at 11:30 AM
What part of the regulations does a "hut" fall under Rem?
This is a new build which intends to provide sleeping and living accomodation, it is very different to a converted shed (converted being the key word)
Surely we can't just disregard the current rules because we don't agree with them - although it would make our jobs a lot easier!
Rem Koolbag
#16 Posted by Rem Koolbag on 24 Aug 2012 at 12:02 PM
That's kind of my point winston - with a competition to design a hut, should the entrants have immediately got the regs out and start planning the stair newel post design, or should they have approached it from a creative thinking architecturally led position?

It's not a wimpey house or a city centre office scheme where these things have massive impacts is it? Its a design for a small hut that people can live in.

Also, it would seem that the argument about the stair could very well be moot - any evidence that it doesn't actually comply? Come to think of it - I want to see the u-value calcs for the floor insulation!

There was also provision in previous regs for double-step stairs, for access to loft areas etc - if current this could also be utilised.

Did you enter this competition winston? I wish I had heard of it but sadly didnt. If I had, I would no doubt not have won, but I don't think I would be complaining about the application of proper rules at this stage - I think a far better place to be directing some questions is the actual design.
Douglas Dalgleish
#17 Posted by Douglas Dalgleish on 24 Aug 2012 at 12:28 PM
Of greater consequence than the detail of one competition's rules is the deterrent effect of building and planning regulations on hutting in Scotland.

Hutting encounters unnecessary hindrance in planning regulations and building standards devised for other purposes. If this particular hut design helps to highlight compliance difficulties and the need for regulatory change, the growing movement to develop our neglected tradition of huts and hutting will benefit.

As Rem's comments imply, current regulations should not be applied to huts.
#18 Posted by winston on 24 Aug 2012 at 12:28 PM
Part of the architects role in any design is to know and understand the constraints placed on the design, be that by the client or by the rules and regulations currently in force.
You can be creative and think architecturally, as well as meet the regulations, most of us try to do that on a daily basis...
I think, it's pretty clear that the stairs on that plan do not meet the regulations given the plan area, and the fact the gf landing has a door opening across it...
I didn't enter the competition as I said in a previous comment - and my questions are about the design, in my opinion it seems strange that a competition winning scheme is going to have to rely on a relaxation of the current regulations to be able to be constructed - obviously it would have been much more challenging to design a hut with this accomodation which meets the regualtions as the space given over to a compliant staircase would have a significant impact on such a tight floor plan, I wonder if this is maybe where other entrants fell down..?
(I also have no doubt that if I had entered this competition I wouldn't have won it! But I wonder if the client funding the competition expected a building that meets current regulations or not)
Rem Koolbag
#19 Posted by Rem Koolbag on 24 Aug 2012 at 14:27 PM
We all struggle with marrying the creative with the technical - that is architecture.

But this is an open competition, not a final design going to building warrant etc. Where else can we ask the questions others have hit on above (and indeed you do winston)? This project doesnt even have a site or funding at the moment - why should it have a fully compliant stair?
#20 Posted by winston on 24 Aug 2012 at 15:41 PM
Apologies, I wasn't aware the competition was meant to challenge the current regulations, or indeed to create a new set of regulations applied to this type of building in particular.
Will be interesting to see what happens when this does get the funding and a site, will the design change to meet the regulations or will the regulations change to meet the design?
My only worry with the first route is that the diagram will be altered significantly and lose the initial concept, ending with the classic building that no one really wanted!
Rem Koolbag
#21 Posted by Rem Koolbag on 24 Aug 2012 at 15:53 PM
Ultimately, it was up to the judges to either accept it as is, or throw it out.

They have awarded it the winner - they obviously liked it enough to not be too worried about a non-compliant stair.

I think the concepts interrogated here - pre manufacture, ease of construction, environmental impact etc are of more importance than the stair.
#22 Posted by winston on 24 Aug 2012 at 16:18 PM
i'd be surprised if the judges understood what complies with the current regulations or not, that job normally falls to the architect...
I have tried your argument several times with the local authorities in scotland Rem, still never once managed to get an alternate stair passed under current regs.
The opening of my last comment wasn't a sarcastic point, it seems that this is the purpose of the movement, but it will be interesting to see where this one goes.
After finding that out I was even more annoyed at missing this competition as I'm pretty good at designing things that don't meet the regulations!!
#23 Posted by CadMonkey on 24 Aug 2012 at 16:24 PM
You obviously haven't fallen down a steep stair before Rem. My original point is that the design of this building (not a romantic hut - a building) includes an essential habitable space, a bedroom that is accessed via what appears to be a non-compliant stair - essentially a ladder. This obviously frees up the plan and makes it all very easy. Is there a clever way around the regs here? If so can we all hear about it. I'm guessing from lack of clues forthcoming that there isn't and it is in fact an oversight.
Rem Koolbag
#24 Posted by Rem Koolbag on 24 Aug 2012 at 16:57 PM
CadMonkey - no, I haven't fallen down a steep stair. I can empathise however with those who have and it shouldn't happen.

That said, I took a quick look at the plan and it would appear to be a fairly simple replanning exercise to get a stair in there that works. This wasn't the 'Design a Staircase to An Upper Storey Of a Hut' competition - it was a hut design competition. Just as the details for holding the building frame down to the foundations hasn't been drawn or worked out, there are other considerations needing fully worked out.

For the avoidance of doubt - I am not blown away by the design of this scheme, and I too think the stair is a bit of an oversight and a mistake. I think there are far better things to be debating here though no?

Winston - If youre not winning these things, and I'm not winning these things - who the hell is?!
#25 Posted by wonky on 24 Aug 2012 at 19:31 PM
People will always fall down stairs, steep or otherwise. They can be tricky terrain to negotiate- even Dalek's or state of the art robots cannot get up or down stairs. But that is not important right now. What is important is Scottish Independence, ultimately leading to a radical overall of land rights. A universal suffrage of land, bequeathed to the people in perpetuity. We have to get rid of these truant feckless landlords on their shooting estates who prostitute the land for nothing more than a disneyland of bloodsports for a moneyed elite. The exorbitant fees charged for this environmentally 'scorched earth' amusement creates an artificially high price for land occupied for shooting. There is a profit for a few, namely the land-owners in this activity- it warps and withers the land, stunts sapplings, hinders the regeneration of forest areas, prevents the re-population of the Highlands. We cannot use the land to create opportunity's for local people, cannot enrich an eco-system that is overburdened with pheasants and deer. The wolf, lynx, boar and other species have to be reintroduced if we want to replenish and re-wild the land. Eco-tourism is the future for local populations, with new educated environmentally conscious settlers living a sustainable, balanced and symbiotic relationship with the natural world around them.
This is all about the next level of democracy in Scotland reaching its full maturity- its all about the complete elimination of a catastrophic, staid, Victorian mono-culture of despotic hierarchy and deference that has strangled the Highlands in its insidious manacles for too long.

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