Solid cork building envelope

Lead Research Organisation: University of Bath
Department Name: Architecture and Civil Engineering


The research team will be involved in each work package, working in close collaboration with the project lead and others, with a focus on environmental design and performance testing. The core research aims to investigate, develop and test the
viability and actual performance of a radically simple building envelope system made almost entirely from solid, loadbearing expanded cork.

The system will include wall and roof elements and will be designed as a prefabricated construction kit to facilitate simple on-site assembly with dry-joints, as well as simple adaptation and disassembly for re-use or recycling at the end of the building life.

Supporting research will evaluate whole-life performance, utilizing Life Cycle Assessment (LCA) modelling - from the origins of the cork in biodiverse forests, to an embodied carbon-negative product, to solid building envelope helping to deliver a well-insulated, low-energy and healthy indoor environment, and on to eventual disassembly and reuse. The inhabited Cork House will be monitored and energy use, etc. data collected as part of a Post-Occupancy Evaluation. This will provide evidence of actual environmental and energy performance, and this data will also be used in the LCA

The essential simplicity of the proposed system aims to eliminate the complexity of the typical multi-layered building envelope and the building whole-life performance problems often associated with this:

- Excessive building design costs due to the time needed to design numerous complex, bespoke interfaces between dissimilar components and systems.

- Excessive expense and construction period and increased risk of delay and unforeseen cost due to the need for many trades to contribute to envelope construction in prescribed sequences.

- The poor performance of the building envelope due to aggregate performance of the many layers and components not being as predicted. For example, poor airtightness due to differing tolerances and interfaces between components or the degradation of the envelope over time due to the dissimilar thermal expansion or vapour permeability of components.

- Limited adaptability due to the cost and challenge of modifying and interfacing with complex envelope assemblies.

- Destructive demolition at the end of the building life degrading resources due to deconstruction for re-use being unaffordably time-consuming and many components being unrecoverable due to the original method of assembly.

The project would conclude with research on the commercial viability of the building system, including its potential adaptation in response to market opportunities. It is anticipated that the proposed system would be applicable to housing, self-build, rooftop development, and types of ancillary accommodation.

Planned Impact

Benefits to the construction industry, its clients and building owners will include gaining knowledge of a simple biogenic form of construction that will meet regulatory requirements and bring substantial building whole life performance benefits, including reducing environmental impacts and costs without reducing building quality or performance. Building contractors and building design teams may benefit from competitive advantage where they have knowledge of this approach and can
articulate and implement it.

Benefits to policy makers (at national and local level) will be gained from knowledge of the system developed, evidence of actual performance and a clear explanation of associated whole-life benefits and any dis-benefits associated with using this
and possibly other simple forms of biogenic construction. This may then inform what they choose to advocate or legislate for which would create broader impacts.
The research and the associated construction system that will be developed has the potential to contribute to the nation's health, wealth and culture, and also reduce environmental impacts as follows:

- It will enable the creation of buildings with a healthy internal environment, including good indoor air quality.

- It will increase the manufacture of building components in the UK, creating jobs and decreasing imports. Longer-term
benefits will arise at the end of life of buildings using the developed system when components can be re-used.

- It will contribute to design culture in the UK by enabling the design of simple buildings whose form is reflective of the form of construction use, in a similar way to historic solid-wall buildings such as the Regency Town House, but in a way that meets current thermal and other building performance requirements.

- It will enable the lowering of environmental impacts associated with the UK built environment by enabling construction of buildings with low embodied impacts (cork is a sustainable resource that sequesters CO2 for its lifetime) that are healthy to inhabit and low energy in use (due to low u-value) and also simple to deconstruct at the end of building life to re-use the components.


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Description We successfully developed a prototype cork block envelope leading to multi-award winning prototype project: The Cork House. The work included mechanical property characterisation of the cork blocks and development of block format and cork formulation.
Exploitation Route The project developed understanding on construction using cork blocks. It was used by lead partner initially in development of novel building system leading to the prize winning building project.
Sectors Construction

Description Research findings contributed to commercial development of a novel loadbearing cork building.
First Year Of Impact 2018
Sector Construction
Impact Types Societal,Economic

Description MPH Architects: Cork building 
Organisation MPH Architects
Country United Kingdom 
Sector Private 
PI Contribution We are characterising the mechanical properties of the prototype cork products and monitoring the environmental performance of the prototype building.
Collaborator Contribution MPH Architects are leading developing of cork construction. This includes design and construction of the prototype blocks and buildings.
Impact Successful construction of prototype cork building.
Start Year 2015
Description Ty Mawr Lime 
Organisation Ty-mawr Lime Ltd
Country United Kingdom 
Sector Private 
PI Contribution Development and characterisation of novel cork and lime composites for building applications. Mechanical, physical and thermal property testing.
Collaborator Contribution Development, manufacture and supply of novel materials for testing.
Impact None as yet
Start Year 2017
Description Presentation on cork materials 
Form Of Engagement Activity Participation in an activity, workshop or similar
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach Local
Primary Audience Postgraduate students
Results and Impact Presentation at research seminar to postgraduate students.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2017