Here at Three Pools we care about low-impact building, and as farmers nothing is more important to us than protecting our local ecosystem. When designing new structures we therefore apply systems thinking, i.e. how does a new building relate to the larger context in which it exists.
Our small timber-frame cabins are an example of how we design and construct using this approach. For them to be deemed successful, they must: 1. be constructed from locally or responsibly sourced materials, 2. include features that harmonise with the immediate environment. 3. serve as a space for people to positively experience their surroundings.
The majority of the timber used in our cabins, from the stud frame to the balustrades and the cladding, is Welsh grown douglas fir and larch, processed at a sawmill less than 20 miles away. As a material wood is effectively carbon neutral, as the lifetime of carbon absorbed is sequestered in the building itself.
The cabins are insulated with a high-performing composite of 75% sheeps wool and 25% recycled polyester, with the wool being sourced solely from British farms. The roof is made from 100% recycled and recyclable plastic roofing slate; a material that represents a quiet revolution in roofing technology, not least due it’s effectiveness at pitches as low as 14 degrees.
The cabins are designed to, where possible, positively impact their surrounding environment, or at the very least have a reduced footprint. An obvious feature to this effect is the stilted design which raises the floor of the cabin from the ground. This not only allows for minimal footings, thus less soil disturbance, but it also creates a valuable shady habitat in the summer, and a sheltered one in the winter; a welcome respite for invertebrates and small mammals alike.
Added to this, the rainwater collected from the roof is channeled into cultivated beds, and the walls act as suntraps for various climbing plants, including clematis, honeysuckle and virginia creeper.
Staying in a cabin is quite the experience. Taking a flick through our guestbook, you’ll start to appreciate how people connect with themselves through being immersed in the natural environment, as the cabin bridges the gap between a shelter and the outdoors. From inside or on the porch you’ll likely hear the swaying of the ash trees, the meandering of water along the stream, the call of the barn owl, the rustling of the stoat, the bleats of the sheep or even a moment of peaceful silence.
The natural feel from the inside of the cabin, with its rough lime and hemp plastered walls, really helps to situate it in an environment much wilder than many are used to. From here, the experience of the farm can be heightened.
Like many jobs on the farm, the building process helps in the development of skills and education. To build a cabin a degree of proficiency is needed in everything from digger excavation right through to joinery and plastering. Our team have experience working in different areas of carpentry and construction and we were fortunate enough to attend a timber-framing course at the Centre for Alternative Technology @CAT which inspired many of the techniques we continue to use.
In the future we hope to experiment with a range of different materials and techniques. Of particular interest is the use of hemp, straw, glass and stone as versatile materials that make up the fabric of a building.
Also, given that timber framing will likely be a mainstay of the way we build our cabins, especially due to its carbon neutrality, we aim to one day harvest, mill and season some of our own trees!