Cherwell (Self)Build!

Bicester (United Kingdom) 2021

Birmingham City University (United Kingdom)

The project aims to develop a whole house timber frame self-build system with a high environmental performance constructed from locally sourced materials.

The first phase of the project aimed to develop a house type and timber frame system suited to self-build construction. A group of 18 students visited Cherwell Council for a briefing, the project site in Bicester and the Graven Hill self-build site. Returning to Birmingham, the project was developed in three stages:

1. Research in self-build construction, timber frame construction systems, low carbon technical solutions and healthy materials.

2. Design and resolution of a repeatable house type suited to the site.

3. Exploration of technical resolution through a full-scale mock-up of the system.

A house type and timber frame system was developed that aimed for Passivhaus equivalence using sustainable materials, tested through a 1:1 mock up. A subsequent Technical Investigation module built on the successful Co.LAB from the previous academic year. The Technical investigation continued the collaboration with the Build! team to refine a realisable, affordable self-build housing solution. This stage of the project set out to address issues with the system and prototype key junctions of the self-build system at 1:2 scale as proof of concept.


Build!, Cherwell District Council


Ecological Building Systems, material supplier; Clancy Consulting, engineering services


Matthew Jones; Ana Rute Costa; Alessandro Columbano


Sofia Anne Browning; Ruby Louise Phelps; Harpinder Kaur Sihra; Mayce Arebi; Saylah Hussain; Sabrina Dalvair; Rameetha Hussain; Alina Rafiq; Charlie Cummins; Paula Fernandez Cavadas; Rima Kabakebbji; Walae Hassan; Kacper Ziarniecki; Abrar Abdulla Saad; Vania Colleen Joseco; Lucy Gakunga; Byron Tat Yan Chan; Hannah Boland; Miya Davies – Patel; Clement Ellewelapahalage; Nirayan Patel; Younes Dehairi; Laura Viterbo; Jordan Leigh Pardoe; Ritesh Mistry; Victoria Miller

Research question

The project aims to develop a whole house timber frame self-build system with a high environmental performance constructed from as locally sourced materials as possible. It aims to address the following questions:

  1. What are the possibilities of timber frame construction in enabling self-builders to construct a greater proportion of their home?
  2. Is it possible to self-build toward Passivhaus equivalence using fabric first principles?
  3. What are the technical challenges in self-building a low energy timber frame home, and how can these be overcome?

+, 11-50, Architecture, Collaboration, Curricular, Interior Architecture, Propositional, Self-funded, Sheffield Univ., Sponsorship, Students with tutor, Undergraduate, United Kingdom, Years