Blog #9: Cork Trees: North Africa

Cork Oak tree. rainforest-alliance.org

Cork oak trees can be found in Europe and northwestern Africa, including Algeria, Morocco and Tunisia. The use of cork is slowly gaining popularity in the architecture industry and could revolutionize the construction industry.

A house built with cork by architects in Eton, UK has been shortlisted for the 2019 British RIBA Sterling Prize. The walls and roof, made of several distinct corbelled pyramid-like shapes. This system “allows for a simple assembly of one block on top of the other,” supported by timber,and topped with skylights allowing sunlight into the structure (2019, Sargent, G).

Cork is harvested from the bark of cork oak trees which grow around the Mediterranean and is harvested from trees every nine years. The cork is then manufactured into building blocks of prefabricated cork, with cork granules being compressed and heated. Then, they’re cut using 3D milling so the blocks interlocking, so adhesives are not required.

Cork is lightweight, warm to the touch and has great acoustic and insulating properties. “Rather than the typical complex, layered building envelope incorporating an array of building materials, products and specialist sub-systems”, the cork gives structure, and acts as insulation, exterior and interior finish (2019, Crook, L).

It is also sustainable and can be recycled or composted at the end of its life. Architects deemed the house carbon-negative at its completion and estimate that the house’s “whole life carbon” is less than 15% of a standard British new-build house.

SOURCES

  1. Sargent, G. (2019, August 2). British Designers Have Made a House Entirely Out of Recyclable Cork. https://www.weforum.org/agenda/2019/08/home-is-where-the-cork-is-uk-designers-present-recyclable-house/. Retrieved on January 9, 2020.
  2. Crook, L. (2019, July 29). Dezeen. Recyclable House is Built from Cork Blocks. https://www.dezeen.com/2019/07/29/cork-house-matthew-barnett-howland-sustainable-architecture/. Retrieved on January 27, 2020.
  3. Rainforest Alliance. (2012, September 2). Cork Oak: Quercus Suber. https://www.rainforest-alliance.org/species/cork-oak. Retrieved on January 27, 2020.

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