The Roundwood House explores the viability of using locally sourced forest thinnings as a building material. Partnering with the local Forest Service, the team was able to harvest “thinnings,” or small-diameter timbers that are removed from a stand during sustainable foresting practice. The material, which has little value outside of its use in pulpwood, is abundant in Alabama.
The Roundwood House studies the thinnings in their most raw form: round and green. The trees were debarked and treated with a boron-based solution to ward off insects. Since the wood had not been dried, the timbers were subject to shrinking and twisting over time. To allow for this movement, each timber is connected only through the center of each of its ends, enabling the log to pivot along its central axis. The timbers are then connected in a truss configuration, which takes advantage of the logs’ strength in tension and compression. Conceptually, the roundwood timbers provide the structure of the house while a dimensional lumber shell, or curtain wall, covers and protects the truss.
The interior spaces of the one-bedroom house are divided by a central core, which also contains the majority of the house’s plumbing and electricity. Each of the four sides of the core serves a different function: kitchen, bathroom, bedroom, and laundry area. The centralization of the core also allows for a full view of the timber trusses.