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Typical Navajo Hogan

The Navajo hogan is positioned on an east-west axis with the entrance facing the sunrise on the equinoxes. The place of honor is at the back of the hogan, facing the door from behind the hearth, which is at the center. An important ritual is for the patriarch of the family to arise at sunrise, proceed out through the east-facing doorway toward the sun, and cast a pinch of pollen to the winds while saying a morning prayer at the moment of sunrise.

Roundwood Timber Frames


Scroll down to see some of the frames we build.

English Cruck Frame


This shelter is based on the cruck frame buildings of England from around 1200bc. We usually build this using round wood so the natural form of the trees can still be appreciated.

Creek Town House


This is a Native American structure from the Alabama, Mississippi area. The structure can have wattle and daub walls which can be woven and 'mudded' by children. The roof can be thatched, felted or shingled.

Mandan Earth Lodge


This structure takes its inspiration from the homes of the indigenous peoples of North America including the Mandan and Miwok Indians. Traditionally this structure would be turf covered. As an outdoor classroom the sides are usually left open, children can weave willow into the walls. For other uses walls can be added or the whole structure can be turf covered.

Hogan
A structure used by Navajo ladies in North America characterised by the whirling log roof. This circular structure is a fascinating overhead spectacle. It is made using round

wood in its natural form and blends beautifully into any landscape. Constructed with alternate logs missing it is the perfect pagoda for vines and climbers. Traditionally this structure would have been had a turf roof and this option is also available.

Anglo-Saxon Nomadic Shelter


This is a bushcraft shelter as popularised by Ray Mears and historically used over much of Europe by our hunter gatherer ancestors. The children can cover the frame with leaves and sticks and can help building the entire structure. There are various forms of this structure differing in shape and size. Life span 2-3yrs

Round House
Round houses have been used in Britain and in many other cultures across the globe. Large trees are used to create this beautiful circular space. The reciprocal frame can

support a living turf roof with no centre pole. The structure is usually left open sided for outdoor classrooms. For other uses walls can be fitted all round or just on a few sides.

Early English Notch Frame


This structure marks the early evolution of green timber frames as we know them today. We often make this structure with a mix of round and square timber. The roof can be covered with shingles, tarps, felt or thatch. For outdoor classroom use the front and back are left open.

Kickapoo Wigwam
This is a traditional shelter found in Mexico and Texas. The same structure was also used by our forest dwelling woodsman of times gone by. The roof can be covered with

tarp or felt. The walls can be woven with willow by the children.

Ethiopian Tukul
The Tukul or Sarbet (grass house) comes from the Ethiopian high plateau. This structure can be covered in thatch or brash.

Hogan (male)
A structure used by Navajo men in North America. Traditionally this structure would have a turf roof and a small smoke hole at the apex like a tipi.

Pima Bender
This is a traditional shelter of the Pimans who lived in a warm dry climate. The structure was covered in adobe and had a flat roof. This structure does not last in the UK climate so we cover the roof with tarp or felt. The walls can be woven with willow by the children.

Parabolic
This A frame is a design adaptation of the cruck frame buildings of England from around 1200bc. The basic structure is a covered seating or dining area 5.5m diameter which can be increased in size to a 6 or 8 sided room. Made from round wood the natural beauty of the trees used can still be appreciated and the cross beams provide

seating. This structure also features the rather intriguing parabolic roof some what like the shape of a manta ray. The building can be an open sided for use as outdoor classroom or map room, or semi clad.

Yurt
The Yurt comes from Mongolia where people traditionally lived nomadic lives. There are many different designs of yurt now including many that originate in the UK and USA. Our structure is a design adaptation which suits the British climate.

Roundwood timber framing: the greener way to build

Maddy Harland 19th October, 2010

Using our native softwoods and 'in the round' construction, this innovative technique results in beautiful buildings with high environmental credentials
In a clearing in our woodland at the Sustainability Centre, just beyond my window, Ben Law and his roundwood framers plus apprentices have been building a woodland classroom. It has been wonderful to watch it arise out of the woods and be a small part of the experience. Much of the timber has been sourced from our overstood plantations here. Years ago, when the centre was in its infancy, foresters working for the county council came to assess the woodland, left unmanaged for more than 50 years and damaged by grey squirrel and deer. They told us the best thing we could do commercially was to clear-fell the lot and replant. Today Ben and his crew have built us a beautiful building from this maligned timber. He tells me there is still enough suitable timber left for at least four more large buildings. The classrooms frame and its steam-bent roof rafters are made from Lawson's cypress, a softwood that is usually pulped for paper or chipped for biomass boilers. Ben had never built with this timber before but it is abundant here and he uses whatever is available on site whenever possible. He tells me the wood is a pleasure to work with. Each frame is individually constructed by hand in the woods and moved into position for the frame-raising. They sit on padstones, each carefully sited, and after raising they are anchored to the earth, literally. The floor joists are Douglas fir and roof shingles are western red cedar, another abundant fast-growing wood that can be substituted for oak. The cedar comes from the Cowdray estate, just over the border in Sussex, more famous for its polo.

The build itself sited at the former HMS Mercury shore establishment, an ex-Royal Navy base that is better known for its bomb-proof, rather brutal 1960s buildings is a beautiful landmark. It is a celebration space as well as a classroom, with a magnificent shingle roof that curves over the building like the hull of a great ship. The northern end holds an energy-efficient Rumford fireplace, surrounded by rammed earth, cordwood walls and a bench, plus an earthen floor sealed with linseed oil. The rest of the floor is boarded western red cedar. The walls are open to the elements (a design that allows for more lenient planning permission and building regulations) and the southern end opens up into a large veranda, soaring out into the woodland. Bringing building back into the community Beside their beauty and functionality, what characterises Bens builds is community involvement. Ben wants to relocalise building in two ways. First, he wants to use timber in the round, i.e. not planed in a sawmill, grown as near to the build site as possible. This minimises transport, uses a resource that is regarded as low value and is often pulped or burnt, and reduces the need to mill. He also wants to build locally himself and is actively training timber-framers from all over Britain and further afield to work in their own localities. He has an apprentice scheme running from his own Sussex woodland and also takes on trainees on individual builds. Writing about roundwood timber framing, Ben has described all aspects of what is no less than a new architectural vernacular. He starts with how to choose appropriate trees to fell, explains how to lay the padstone foundations, describes the process of roundwood framing, and the jointing and pegging techniques (which differ from green-oak framing). Then comes the construction of floors, roofs and walls using natural materials like waney edge boards, cob and straw bales; and finally there are examples of seven very different buildings. The result is that roundwood timber-framed buildings are beginning to appear and the planners and building control officers are learning to appreciate their high environmental credentials. One apprentice, Mark Alvis, now living in Canada, trained with Ben on the Woodland Classroom build for five weeks. Before emigrating, he raised the frames for a garden structure plus another small demonstration building at the Sustainability Centre.

Build it yourself! There is no reason why more people with a reasonable grasp of carpentry cant begin to experiment with modest structures before they go on to build their dream eco home. This way of building has already been applied to garden sheds, outhouses, workshops, compost loos, playrooms The advantage is that we're surrounded by softwoods from overstood plantations such as Lawsons cypress and Douglas fir, or coppiced products like chestnut, which can be cheaper to acquire than imported milled products. Ben built the Lodsworth Larder at two-thirds of the price of a conventionally designed and built shop. Structural engineers have also calculated that wood in the round is up to twice as strong as milled wood, meaning we do not have to fell great oaks for structural strength, we can build with smallerdiameter roundwood. Our fast-growing softwoods are so often neglected because there is no longer adequate commercial value to justify thinning or felling them. Left to their own devices, they grow close together in light-deprived plantations that pull the long, straight poles skyward. Ben says these are perfect for roundwood timber-framing. As climate change warms our temperate shores, our slow-growing oaks, traditionally used for greenwood framing, will migrate northwards. Ben is therefore keen to identify and test fastergrowing alternatives. Besides finding new end uses for western red cedar, Lawsons cypress, sweet chestnut and Douglas fir, Ben is also looking for more temperate-climate alternatives to oak and beech, such as swamp cypress (Taxodium distichum) and Robinia pseudoacacia. The later is commonly known as the Black Locust, a nitrogen-fixer, which is reputed to last a year longer than stone. Ben is dedicated to finding viable economic markets for Britains overstood plantations. By bringing them back into production, he is not only inspiring a renaissance in sustainable woodland management, but also encouraging practices that produce greater biodiversity. Where coppice is brought back into rotation and overstood plantations are cleared and replanted, flora and fauna return. Orchids and rare butterflies are attracted to the restored habitat.

So if you yearn to build a cabin or workshop in your garden or a lean-to by the back door, before you buy milled timber from eastern Europe from your local wood yard, spare a thought for our native softwoods and consider building in the round. Youll do more than craft a beautiful handmade structure, youll be supporting a renaissance in sustainable woodland management in Britain. Maddy Harland is the editor of Permaculture Magazine and co-founder of the Sustainability Centre. She also writes a regular blog. Useful Websites and contacts Roundwood timber-framing film trailer www.ben-law.co.uk www.the-roundwood-timber-framing-co.ltd.uk www.the-roundwood-timber-framing-tools.co.uk Roundwood Timber Framing by Ben Law a book and DVD cost 19.95 each. To buy both for a special price of 34.90, saving 5, see www.greenshopping.co.uk or call 017308 243311 and enter/quote offer code RTFDVDECO