Welsh Designer Creates Portable And Sustainable Homes

The government of Wales has proposed One Planet Development guidelines that seek to position Wales as a leader in lowering the carbon footprint of its inhabitants and encouraging sustainable development. The policy is about Wales’ aspiration to live within its global means inside of one generation. It is a forward thinking approach to creating more sustainable lives.

Waghorn monopitch sustainable homes
Mark Waghorn monopitch sustainable home

Recently, Mark Waghorn, lead architect of the Mark Waghorn Design practice in South West Wales, spoke to Energy Saving Trust about how he designs portable and sustainable homes that meed the One Planet Development guidelines. He explains, “Management plans have to be submitted showing how you will use local resources, grow your own food, manage waste – and the dwelling has to be removable.”

“It’s a radical approach about minimizing environmental impact, and it’s not just about CO2. It assumes all the world’s resources are shared equally and pushes you to live within your means. You have to include information about consumer purchases and transport as well. It’s suitable for individuals, couples, or families and is perfectly achievable using current building methods and technologies. There have been six or seven applications approved so far.”

The program has been in place since 2010. How can it be expanded so more people will buy into its goals and guidelines? “It’s well-known among people who are interested in living this way,” Waghorn says. “But the average person perhaps wouldn’t know about it. As part of the One Planet Council, we’re exploring how people could implement this in less remote areas, on the edge of a settlement. This would be for people who want to live a more sustainable lifestyle but perhaps would want to maintain a full-time job.”

“The current standards demand growing 35 per cent of your own food, with another 30 per cent of needs catered for from the profits from another on-site source. We hope to be allowed to come up with a less stringent specification that would be low energy, but not quite all the way.”

While negotiations on this adaptation of the policy continue, Mark’s firm has come up with two designs to meet current standards: the One Planet Monopitch Home and One Planet Caravan. The modular home made from locally sourced timber was the first to be conceived, and it features a pad foundation that can be removed. It is also super-insulated, and can be taken apart and reused or recycled. Find helpful reviews of tools on Contractor Culture.

Waghorn explains, “The planning policy requires you to demonstrate that what you are doing is reversible; if you left the site you would leave it in the same state you found it or better. You’re not talking about building with a concrete base, it has to sit lightly on the land. This is a good philosophy to have anyway.”

Waghorn portable sustainable homes
Mark Waghorn portable home

The caravan design meets planning requirements by being entirely movable in not more than two pieces. What’s known as ‘park homes’ — sometimes known as manufactured homes — are not subject to the same building regulations as houses. For instance, Wales requires all homes to have sprinkler systems, which adds considerably to the cost of construction.

“The connotations of park homes are unfortunate,” Waghorn says, “They’re traditionally seen as made of lots of unnatural materials like plastics and not very naturally landscaped. This one is different. We’re trying to take the typology but make it into something environmentally friendly, aesthetically pleasing and useful.”

Waghorn portable sustainable homes
Mark Waghorn portable home

The firm’s ongoing plans for the designs are refreshingly community-minded in this profit-oriented world. He explained the approach: “We’re taking it forward as an open-source project, developing the designs for free, for everyone as a downloadable model you can play about with. All additional work will be free and sharable. There are no limitations on how it can be used, it’s for everyone to use for themselves, and also for anyone looking to commercialize it.”

“There’s already a community in Wales very interested in self-build, though often making smaller structures. It’s about learning from experience and sharing what works with other looking to do similar. This is a different culture to that of having intellectual property rights – it’s more about working together for the common good.”

Waghorn also hopes to help in spreading sustainable ideas that go beyond building fabric – and beyond the more remote areas that are the current focus of One Planet Development. He says, “This is not just for rural areas. You can grow your own food in smaller space, even in city window boxes. You can apply some of the designs we’ve been working on to higher density sites.”

“The suburban layout is often criticized, but there’s potential here too. There is plenty of space to provide for a lot of your own needs, though local transport infrastructure has to be considered too. You can’t be driving huge distances, negating the self-sufficiency achieved elsewhere.”

Ultimately, Waghorn has a vision for a different kind of living, and it’s one which he brings to his architecture practice. “My belief is we need a better link with our environment, and to move away from being passive consumers to more active. An understanding of the natural world is essential.”

All photos courtesy of Mark Waghorn Design; this post has been sponsored by ContractorCulture