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What does the house of the future look like? Hear about Lego-style homes and natural fridges in our latest podcast

What’s next for the way we build – and live in – our homes?
Apr 26th 2018, 9:00 PM 21,744 11

‘WHAT I LOVE about earth is that it’s about as local as it gets.’

Féile Butler and Colin Ritchie completed their self-built family home in Skreen, Co Sligo in 2011. The couple – an architect and a carpenter with their own company, Mud And Wood – constructed their entire house from earth, straw and wood, using a technique known as cob building.

Earth building is an ancient technique, but it’s one that Feile and Colin have adapted for modern times, and one they think has endless applications in modern-day construction.

In the newest episode of Future Stories, a monthly podcast from and Volkswagen we’re looking ahead to what the house of the future might look like.

With high energy efficiency ratings now a standard across the board, what’s next for the house you live in? Is there a sustainable way to build – and to live in – your home that gives you more than just a number on a certificate?

Living in a cob house

Under-Construction-01 The house under construction back in 2011.

While the words ‘mud house’ might conjure up images of a brown hut with a thatched roof, Féile and Colin’s home is nothing like that. It’s a contemporary two storey structure with three bedrooms, two bathrooms, views to the Atlantic from the kitchen window – and curved walls all around.

As Féile explains:

You could actually build a mud home completely straight and not know it was a mud house if you wanted to, but I think for us, using this material, we wanted to have fun.

In a time when nearly zero energy builds are quickly becoming the norm thanks to innovations like hybrid heat pumps and smart thermostats, Féile and Colin have achieved the same results using all-natural materials.

Fuel bill? What fuel bill?

Fridge-05 One of the houses's two 'stone fridges' keeping food at a steady four degrees Celsius - with no electricity required.

“Earth is a great thermal storer, so it retains heat… There’s a little stove downstairs too that heats the hot water tank and the heating tank, plus we have a roll of solar panelling outside,” Féile says.

Because of Colin’s work we get offcuts of wood all the time and so we don’t have a fuel bill. Well, except in sweat from lugging and chopping wood.

The couple run regular classes in the cob construction technique, and are involved in organising Clayfest, an annual week of talks and workshops on the topic of earth building.

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3D printing your own place

Over in the UK, a new method of home manufacturing couldn’t be further from earth building – but it’s a method that has equally exciting applications for the future. Facit Homes is one of the market leaders in the process of 3D manufacturing.

15039684_280195135709622_672554848226232006_o A recent Facit Homes build in Highgate, London. Source: Facebook/Facit Homes

After designing your new home using 3D modelling software, the company uses computer controlled cutters to manufacture and cut each ‘piece’ of the house to exact specifications, from walls to windows to doors.

The pieces are then slotted together on site to form a house. ”It’s all piled together like a big Lego set,” explains Rhys Denbigh, Head Of New Business at Facit Homes.

Right now we use the process for individual projects, but the beauty of manufacturing is that it wants to be done at volume. It could massively speed up the time it takes to build a whole housing estate, for example.

Want to know more? Check out episode two of Future Stories below, and subscribe on Apple Podcasts and Spotify for updates on all our new episodes.

Source: Journal Media/SoundCloud

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