Community Café

Birmingham, UK
A community space in Cotteridge Park. Staffed by volunteers, it’s the base for all the activities that go on in the park.

Architect: Axis Design Architects
Timber frame contractor: Pulp Build
CNC operator: Chop Shop

South Yorkshire Housing Association

Sheffield, UK
The first WikiHouse built by a housing association.

Manufacturer: Chop Shop
Architect: Architecture 00

The Gantry at Here East

London, UK
23 affordable studios and creative work spaces in Hackney Wick, Queen Elizabeth Olympic Park.

Architect: Architecture 00

Huaxia Star Library

Hebei, China
A school library at Er-tai primary school in Hebei province, northern China.

Architect: Dot Architects


Scotland, UK
A garage and writing studio built on the west coast of Scotland for a private client. It was assembled in one week by the owner and a group of volunteers working with a local builder.
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A compact, zero-carbon home that feels bigger on the inside than the outside.

Have you ever wondered what it is about traditional row-houses that gives them such enduring appeal, compared to modern homes? A big part of the secret is ceiling height. High ceilings actually improve our cognition, our sense of wellbeing and make us think more creatively. Headspace makes it possible to create compact homes at mid-urban densities that still feel open, generous and filled with daylight.

Conventionally you might expect to have higher ceilings on the ground floor, and lower ceilings on upper floors. But this design pattern plays with this by switching level heights in the middle of the house. This has two main effects.

A cross section through a two storey roof. The downstairs is a single space, with a high ceiling at the front of the house, and a low ceiling at the rear. The upstairs is split into three rooms: bedroom  at the front and rear and a bathroom in the middle, with a skylight.

First, it gives spatial variety, even within a relatively simple home. The high ceilinged entrance, kitchen and dining room space at the front of the house transitions to a lower, cosier living room space at the rear, while the main bedroom above gets a high, spacious ceiling.

Second, it makes the layout very space-efficient. By splitting the stairs, less floor area is lost to circulation space.

Ultra-low energy

Although you could build a version of this house with a pitch roof, the design shown has a flat roof with a parapet which then needs to be finished with an additional layer of tapered roof insulation. This results in an exceptionally well-insulated home. It's also simpler to build, and creates a roof area where you can install solar panels (on frames) orientated in any direction, and a heat pump unit and MVHR vent outlet that are neatly hidden from the rest of the world.

Keeping cool

High windows are the best way to maximise light while minimising glazing area, but nonetheless on the sun-facing aspect you will probably need to add shading, such as shutters, awnings or clip-on 'sails' in summer. The windows and rooflight should be fully openable to allow warm air to escape upwards. We recommend adding boards with thermal mass to the internal floor or walls to help. Inward-opening windows work really well, allowing connection to the outside, but make sure there are sufficient protection rails on the outside to prevent falling. Your building rules should have rules about this.

Layout variations

There are two version of this design pattern, Medium and Large. The difference is the span. The larger span, L, allows the addition of a third smaller bedroom and an ensuite bathroom. By default, the design shows a fully open space on the ground floor to allow people, light and air to flow from the front to the rear of the house, but especially with the larger variant there is plenty of capacity to additional additional space, such as a larger downstairs bathroom. In fact, you could create a 'flipped' version of the house, which has a bedroom, kitchen and dining room on the ground floor, and a high 'drawing room' living space on the upper floor.

An exploded isometric cutaway plan of the house.

Outdoor rooms

As with all WikiHouse builds, you can use any foundation type, but for minimising carbon emissions, it is best to avoid concrete if possible. Steel screw piles are ideal. The WikiHouse chassis sits off the ground. This requires dealing with the level-changes outside the building in an elegant way. On the front, raised planters can create a buffer zone, disguising a ramp up to the entrance. At the rear, a raised deck is a great way to create an 'outdoor room' for dining in summer, that then steps down to the garden.

Any cladding

As always, you can use any cladding you like, including cork spray-render if you want the homes to blend-in to a traditional context. This is a good opportunity to use different materials, human-scale textures and decorative relief to create a subtle differentiation of character between the homes if you are building an entire row. On the side walls, you'll need appropriate fire protection between the houses, so make sure you leave enough of a gap. This gap can be capped off on all sides.

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Upfront carbon cost
Internal floor area
92 / 103
Suitable for
UK, Europe, North America
Uses some custom blocks
Last updated
April 19, 2024


Cutting files for many blocks can be found in our block library. If this design uses custom blocks that are not in the library yet, you can engage our design team to create them for you.
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