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Box House






£201,000 (ex VAT) Construction


Studio Bark Projects




Box House is constructed using Studio Bark’s innovative U-Build construction system. Please see our U-Build website for more information.

The scheme is one of 10 pilot houses, built side by side as the first street in Graven Hill, Bicester: a pioneering development of 1900 Custom and Self Build houses (CSH). The Graven Hill project is of national significance, a ‘vanguard’ project aiming to help the government double the CSH market by 2020.

The clients, Chris and Roxie, wanted to be involved in the construction of their house and were interested in the benefits associated with prefabricated (off-site) housing. However, they did not have the budget to pay for an external contractor, nor the specialist skills to lead the build process themselves. In response to this challenging brief, Studio Bark developed an innovative system of CNC cut timber building blocks. Later coined as U-Build, the system is designed to provide a robust and affordable self-build solution for keen self-builders with limited construction experience.

U-Build offers a hybrid offsite solution which removes many of the difficulties associated with traditional construction. The system harnesses the accuracy, speed and repeatability of offsite manufacture. It was developed with structural engineers Structure Workshop and prototyping / manufacturing from Cut and Construct.

The spruce plywood shell and core of the 2 bedroom, 95 sqm prototype house took just 4 weeks to construct. This was done by the client and a small team of architecture students, with the assistance of Studio Bark Projects. In the following 8 weeks the internal fit-out (kitchen, stair and internal partitions) was completed by Studio Bark Projects. While this was happening, other trade contractors installed mechanical and electrical services and the green roof.

The self-build portal suggests that it takes 6-9 months to construct a residential house. Chris and Roxie’s House showed that an equivalent U-Build house can be delivered in 4 months.


Box House Construction: Bark Live Build 2017

Box House was constructed over the course of summer 2017 by the client and a small group of architecture students, as part of Studio Bark’s annual Bark Live Build.

Bark Live Build seeks to bridge the gap between architectural education and the on-site application of architecture. Architecture students can graduate from university with very little understanding of materials, construction terminology, or technical detailing. The construction of Box House as a student build project enabled us to pass on these practical and professional skills. During the project, the brilliant student team lived ‘off-grid’ in a temporary campsite nearby made from reclaimed materials and including a luxurious composting toilet, a covered dining area and a hot shower.



Studio Bark reduced the whole life costs through a robust ‘fabric first’ approach including high-levels of insulation and inherent airtightness. In the future, self-builders can replace the parts at minimal cost, and remove individual panels to access services for maintenance.

All windows of the house were triple glazed. U-values were at passivhaus levels 0.15 Wm2K and airtightness is also predicted to be at passivhaus levels. The house benefits from a green roof and 2kWp solar panel system.

The insulation is so effective that the building does not need radiators; a single loop of 22mm copper pipe is sufficient to provide background warmth, saving cost, materials and maintenance. Further, the copper pipe was surface-mounted, providing a design feature that did not intrude upon the finished positions of furniture.

Environmental consultants Atmos Lab conducted a study. It concluded that the embodied carbon for a U-Build house would be circa 238 kgCO2/m2 as compared to 550 kgCO2/m2 for an equivalent house built with traditional construction methods.

The supply chain uses materials with environmental certifications. This including FSC and PEFC, such as Riga Birch plywood and WISA spruce plywood. Other non-toxic, ecological materials are specified including sheep’s wool insulation.



Watch Box House come to life on Channel 4’s Grand Designs: The Street, aired April 25th 2019

Grand Designs TV House – Inside the UK’s First U-Build House, Grand Designs magazine, Autumn 2014
Grand Designs: The Street – Box House’s innovative U-Build system, Self Build Portal, Spring 2019

Inside the Incredible Plywood “Flat-packed” Home, Homes and Property, April 2019


Client Testimonial

“Studio Bark are a talented and dedicated team of young, ambitious architects who had the rare ability to understand exactly what we wanted from a home. Their expertise and industry knowledge transformed a loose concept into reality through special attention to innovation and detail. From start to finish they understood the brief and what our intentions were. It was a pleasure to work with them and I would recommend them to anyone wanting something distinctive and beautiful whilst allowing an appreciation for all your modern life demands.”

– Chris Haines, Client



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