Block House

Studio Abroad with Material Cultures, Somerset, 2020



All photographs Felix Koch, Isabelle Young     Download Original

  • D212POX4838CNIO_SA_Block_House_FK_01    
  • D212POX4838CNIO_SA_Block_House_FK_02    
  • D212POX4838CNIO_SA_Block_House_FK_03    
  • D212POX4838CNIO_SA_Block_House_FK_04    
  • D212POX4838CNIO_SA_Block_House_IY_01    
  • D212POX4838CNIO_SA_Block_House_IY_02    
  • D212POX4838CNIO_SA_Block_House_IY_03    
  • D212POX4838CNIO_SA_Block_House_IY_04    
  • D212POX4838CNIO_SA_Block_House_IY_05    
  • D212POX4838CNIO_SA_Block_House_IY_06    
  • D212POX4838CNIO_SA_BH_Axo    
  • D212POX4838CNIO_SA_BH_Elevations    
  • D212POX4838CNIO_SA_BH_Location_Plan    
  • D212POX4838CNIO_SA_BH_Proposed_Plan    
  • D212POX4838CNIO_SA_BH_Sections    
  • D212POX4838CNIO_SA_BH_Site_Plan    

The brief was for a new hermitage to be built on the site of a previous one as a private retreat connected to its surroundings, designed in such a way as not to inflict lasting damage on the landscape.

Block House replaces a former Hermitage, destroyed when a large beech tree fell on it in 2018, in an estate in Somerset. The new timber-framed structure is inherently low-embodied carbon, using a natural material palette of locally sourced timber, hempcrete and wood-fibre insulation. Sheltered by mature beech trees, the building sits on simple flint foundations. Block House is a prototypical, experimental building which demonstrates low-carbon construction is not only possible but can also create beautiful places to live.

The new structure, enlarged to accommodate an independent bedroom and veranda, sits several metres north of the original building to avoid and protect the roots of the neighbouring trees.

Designed to be extremely low in embodied carbon, Block House is built from a palette of entirely cellulose and lime-based materials: timber, wood fibre, hemp shiv, and lime. The structure makes use of proprietary timber for its structural frame, alongside prefabricated hempcrete blocks sourced from Buckinghamshire.

Ready-made hempcrete blocks were used instead of in-situ hempcrete to reduce both on-site construction and the follow on time for the lime in the hempcrete to cure. The blocks provide crucial thermal mass, are lightweight, easy to install and lend the interior a rhythm and texture.

Externally the structure is clad in locally sourced larch and cedar shingles, and the deck is framed by a series of oak columns. The building is conceived as one which is drawn from the landscape, and can eventually return to it – the entire structure being effectively compostable.

Annual CO2 data was not provided


  • Begun: May 2020
  • Completed: Dec 2020
  • Floor area: 83m2
  • Total cost: £224,000
  • Funding: Private
  • Tender date: Dec 2019
  • Procurement: JCT minor works
  • Address: South Petherton, Somerset, TA13, United Kingdom

Professional Team