Our previous work gallery might help you choose the design you want. If you want us to build something for you but aren’t sure what you want yet ⇒ get in touch and we’ll guide you through the process.
Ben Laws 'Cruck frame' House
One of the nation’s favorite Grand Designs episodes. Adrian worked with Ben on the Woodland House for about six months in 2002. Cruck frame buildings with a shingle roof have become very popular. The walls can be timber-clad, hempcrete, or lime-plastered straw bale.
Kevin McCloud's, 'Man Made Home'
In December 2011, Channel 4 asked Adrian to project-manage Kevin McCloud’s build. The resulting TV show, ‘Kevin McCloud’s Man Made Home’, is a four part series for Channel 4. The temporary nature of a building on wheels can in some situations make planning statues a lot simpler. Kevin McCloud collaborated with us during the design process and his passion for design and ecological principals made this an easy partnership. Construction notes for the self-builder can be seen on our blog.
Farms For City Children, Outdoor Classroom
Wholewoods started developing the outdoor teaching buildings at Farms For City Children in summer 2016. The big roundhouse is used by children from city schools to learn about nature, farming and story telling. This design features our signature 'Oakey Cokey' reciprocal ring beam. The walls are in filled using a variety of different techniques; cordwood, wattle and dauble, and rendered straw. The eye hole is left open with a shingle cladding. The green roof is looking good. We left it to wild seed which is an on-going experiment. The floor is of pitched bricks in concentric circles.
Toilet and Shower Roundhouse
A twin toilet and shower facility at the outdoor learning area of Farms For City Children. We fitted this building with a circular timber clad wall, and a skylight. This design features a fan shaped reciprocal roof which could also be turf rather than tin. The building has three doors is divided into two separate toilets rooms and one central shower under the skylight.
Bath University, Design & Build Course
Department of Architecture and Civil Engineering Annual design and build project at Westonbirt Arboretum. An annual five day project for 3rd and 4th year Architecture students. We help the students work through the design process and finally guide the actual build. All the wood used is harvested at the arboretum. Over the years Wholewoods have run many educational sessions on natural building for organisations and local groups, including: Oxford Brookes University; Falmouth University; The Green Building Council; BTCV; Eon; London College of Communication; Wateraid; Peter Bedford Housing Association and various City Farms.
London Wildlife Trust Roundhouse
The new outdoor teaching space at Westberry Wetlands site in London. We built this roundhouse for London Wildlife Trust using timber sourced from one of their local sites. During the project we trained volunteers and staff who assisted on the build. This building has since won a design award.
Cleft Oak and Chestnut Bridge
Project nearing completion. Crossing the moat at Farms For City Children our bridge is a sculptural journey in timber. Each upright is carved by a different trainee and all the hand rails are hand carved to follow the natural form. An oak plank walk way sits on a solid oak-trunk beam. All the uprights and rails are cleft chestnut.
Spitalfields City Farm Shop, London
Project in progress. Our roundwood cruck frame building at Spitalfields is the farms new shop. This build still needs additional funding to complete. Spitalfields City Farm is an amazing oasis for the community near the center of London and the staff are also doing vital out reach work with schools in the area. Please help. http://www.spitalfieldscityfarm.org/ The Spitalfields City Farm shop is being built in stages. The crucks (A frames) where built at our woodyard by people booked on our Roundwood Timber Framing course 5th – 8th Sept 2016. During the second stage we erected the frames and cutt in the additional components on-site. Shingles for the roof have been made on-site by volunteers and corporate groups.
We build large pole barns for agricultural or educational use. An attractive, natural and craftsman made space as an alternative to the ubiquitous steel frame barn. We built this barn using large dimension Larch and Chestnut trees used in the round. Unlike the conventional pole barn we sit the posts on pad stones rather burying them in the ground which means the posts won’t rot. The frames of this barn is shingles but our other pole barns can support mono-pitch roofs. Our pole barns can be timber clad and have the option of a tin or shingle roof. If you’d like to talk to us about building a Pole Barn get in touch.
Brixham Cofe School, Forest School
We built this roundhouse as an outdoor classroom for the school's forest school sessions. They keep the sides open to the elements and for natural light.
Our first turf roof building. A wattle and daub walled artists studio in a back garden in North London. The walls are lime rendered clay plaster. The floor is a polished natural clay.
Queens Forest School, London
Our open sided, 'soft top' roundhouse is used as an outdoor classroom for forest school lessons. We took classes of children to help with this project during design and technology sessions. This process really helped all the teachers and pupils take ownership of the space whilst being a great one off opportunity for all.
Yoga Studio Roundhouse, Cornwall
We built this roundhouse as a frame only and the clients then completed the rest of the build. The space is used for retreats and yoga on a rural small holding in South Cornwall.
Map Room, Wales
This interesting turf roof structure is used as a map room and rain shelter at the public foot path entrance point to a private woods in Wales. We built this structure during a natural building event.
We’ve been building Reciprocal Frame Roundhouses and Roundwood Timber Frame structures for over fifteen years. The following topics describe some of the key features you might want to think about. Browse these options to help plan your project. Even if you are not yet sure exactly what you want ⇒ get in touch and we’ll guide you through the process.
I advise that your building is free-standing and sits either on pad stones, type1 hardcore footings or a concrete base. Many people build roundhouses with their upright posts buried in the ground, which makes them susceptible to rot. In some extreme circumstances there may still be an argument for this approach but you’d need a very good reason.
We have pioneered our own timber frame jointing system that is extremely robust, making our buildings suitable for schools and public spaces. We use timber in the round because it’s beautiful and strong. Make sure that durable species are used for the frame and that the bark is peeled off. It is sometimes possible to use your own timber if you have trees on-site. This depends on species and form etc but it will not likely save you money unless you are able to fell and extract the timber yourself for free.
7-9 meters diameter is the most common roundhouse size as this holds a normal school class. We can build them as big as 20 meters and as small as 4. Barns and cruck frame buildings can be almost any size. Be modest but be sure you have considered what you may need in the future. If you are unsure please do speak to us first.
The roundhouses we build are usually turf covered although we can fit a canvas top, timber or tin roof. The reciprocal frame roof offers an open space which requires no central support. Our barns and cruck frames tend to have shingle or tin roofs. I personally love to have a living roof on a building and failing that one made from natural materials. However for some needs, budgets it simply is not achievable or appropriate and that’s ok.
Our roundhouses and cruck frames are often used as educational or public spaces. We love involving people in the building process and have worked with school children, university students and volunteers of all ages. These guided sessions are facilitated by Adrian Leaman, lead craftsman and trained Forest School leader. Our team will of course build for you as a normal contractor if that is more appropriate.
Many educational venues ask us to build the frame only, going on to lay their own roof and walls with staff and/or volunteers. That work can be facilitated by anyone with good general building skills, following a day of training, and offers a significant cost saving. We often build the entire roundhouse, including roof and walls. Commonly staff/volunteers will get envolved in the work. This can also reduce the overall cost of construction. To get an idea of costs get in touch and we’ll work through an estimate for you.
Involving children, students, staff or volunteers in the building process is about more than just cost saving. There are as many good reasons for it as there are people keen to be involved. The smiles and satisfaction along the way say it all.
We can advice on planning based on our experience over the last 15years. However it is up to you to determine if you need planning consent and if you wish to apply. Some people choose to apply, some apply retrospectively, others use permitted development rights. Pictured here is the Mobile home we built for Kevin McCloud. This design was chosen to fall within permitted development rights. Please contact a planning consultant if you are not sure.
Our roundhouses and cruck frame buildings are either installed with a natural wood-chip floor or can be fitted with floor boards.
Cordwood is a great walling option using lengths of wood like bricks held together with a cob (clay & straw mix). We can fit these wall although educational centres and schools like to fit cordwood themselves as a volunteer or children’s activity. If this is the case I can give instruction on technique.
Hazel or Willow Walls
We can supply woven panels for the walls. It is also possible to have removable panels which can be taken down in summer to make the space open sided. Again weaving these panels is a brilliant activity to share with groups of all ages and many venues do this themselves.
Wattle and Daub Walls
Woven panels can also be covered in a cob mix to render them wind proof. This is called Wattle and Daub. Applying and mixing the daub is a fun activity for any group to get involved with.
We can also clad the roundhouse with weatherboarding which is a very attractive walling. We usually use Larch or Chestnut planks.
Please ⇒ get in touch to discuss your project so that we can talk through which option best suits your needs and budget.
Further information about Roundhouses
It’s always inspiring to spend time in a Roundhouse. Round buildings are a welcome departure from the square-ness of our normal built environment. They sit very naturally in the landscape and, being similar to the Roundhouses of the Celts, create a link to our past.
The Roundhouses we build feature a Reciprocal Frame roof, which requires no central support. This roof is usually turf covered and sits on 8 to 13 posts, depending on structure diameter. (Severn to eight meters is most common as this holds a normal class, but we can also build them bigger or smaller.)
These structures are elegant and mind-boggling spectacles of geometry in action. The Reciprocal Frame, also known as a Mandala roof, has been used since the 12th century in Chinese and Japanese architecture although little or no trace of these ancient methods remains. Leonardo da Vinci also designed a self-supporting bridge using this method in the 16th century
Adrian Leaman has over 10 years’ experience in Roundwood Timber Framing. He has worked throughout the UK and is considered one of the country’s experts in this construction method. Adrian was involved in Ben Law’s ‘Woodland House’ (featured on Grand Designs) and project managed the build of Kevin McCloud’s ‘Man Made Home’ for the Channel 4 series.