These new moveable wooden walls are the future of sustainable construction

They reduce a structure's carbon footprint while making it more flexible.
Loukia Papadopoulos
The Ephemeral wood walls.jpg
The Ephemeral wood walls.

University of Cambridge 

Architects from Cambridge’s Centre for Natural Material Innovation and PLP Architecture have released a prototype home made of flexible wooden partition walls which can be shifted and moved around to meet the ever evolving needs of residents. 

This is according to a press release by the institution published on Thursday.

The new building method aims to reduce waste and carbon while also improving living conditions for those who cannot afford expensive refurbishments. The invention is called Ephemeral and it made its debut at the London Design Biennale at London’s Somerset House. 

The project, led by Cambridge researcher Ana Gatóo, consists of flexible wooden partition walls made using kerfing, a type of material which allows wood to bend without breaking.

“Self-assembly and modular furniture have improved so many people’s lives. We’ve developed something similar but for walls so people can take total control of their interior spaces,” Gatóo said.

Empowering people

“If you have lots of money, you can hire a designer and alter the interiors of your house, but if you don't, you're stuck with very rigid systems that could be decades out-of-date. You might be stuck with more rooms than you need, or too few. We want to empower people to make their spaces their own.”

These new partitions can be built into the fabric of a building from its first design or seamlessly retrofitted at a later stage. This process allows engineers to forgo the carbon associated with demolition and reconstruction.

“We’re using engineered timber, which is affordable and sustainable. It's a natural material which stores carbon, and when you don’t need it anymore, you can make something else with it. So you are creating minimal waste,” Gatóo added.

The new material can be used anywhere in the world and is versatile enough to be compatible with workplaces as well as with homes,.

“I’ve worked in development and post-disaster housing with NGOs in many countries around the world, always using sustainable materials. When I started my PhD, I wanted to merge making housing more affordable and social with technical innovation and sustainability. This is what our cities of the future need – caring for people and the environment at the same time,” Gatóo said in the statement.

If adopted by architects everywhere, the development could slash housing costs and overcome some of the hurdles which the construction industry must tackle to be part of a sustainable future.

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