Ticking Truss Barn

A-Zero Architects, Surrey, 2018


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A very long and narrow former chicken shed in an Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty was transformed into a new dwelling for a family.

The original barn was a very simple construction, with concrete slab and block walls, weather boarding and timber trusses. We reused a good deal of this fabric in the new construction, while upgrading the whole envelope to current standards.

For the new roof structure, we opted for a scissor truss to maximise the ceiling height at the centre of the space. Constructed from a combination of glulam and steel ties, eleven trusses are all subtly different, introducing a structural rhythm along the length of the space. This is achieved by varying the angle of the steel tie at each structural bay, not unlike the ticking hands of a clock. The brief called for both privacy and openness from the adjacent field. This was achieved through slatted screens and deep reveals. These strategies also served to reduce solar gain, which was a consideration for this west-facing site.

As a self-build construction project, one of the main design questions was how to simplify the build in a way that could be done safely with the minimum of plant and equipment. We used a series of physical models and diagrams to communicate the construction strategy to the teams of carpenters who built the structure, and these models were also helpful in informing constructional sequence of the build, in particular air tightness membrane, which was a key part of the environmental strategy. The building is heated by a biomass boiler, with low energy demand with achieved through MVHR and excellent air tightness level.


  • Begun: Jul 2017
  • Completed: Aug 2018
  • Floor area: 230m2
  • Sector: Residential
  • Total cost: £245,000
  • Funding: Private
  • Tender date: Mar 2017
  • Procurement: Self-build
  • CO2 Emissions: 14kg/m2/year
  • Address: Surrey, United Kingdom

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