Constructed in central Glasgow for the UN Climate Change Conference in November 2021, the COP26 House showcases how zero carbon homes can be built affordably using readily available homegrown timber and existing skills to help meet our climate targets.
The COP26 House was designed by Peter Smith from Roderick James Architects and developed by Beyond Zero Homes, a collaborative group of more than 24 companies from across the building sector. Every detail of the COP26 house has been considered in terms of environmental and social impact: the performance in use, capacity for re-use of materials at end of life, and affordability. The house was fully constructed and fitted out within just three months, ready to host a series of events and accept a wide range of visitors throughout the conference.
Moreover, the home was designed to be dismantled after the event and moved to Aviemore in northern Scotland where it will form part of a development of 12 affordable timber homes.
The COP26 House was designed as a kit of parts, as part of a simple build system of 1.2 metre wide panels that could easily be put together by self-builders. The system can also be adapted to larger scale developments and offsite fabrication. With this in mind, Peter Smith has designed a selection of homes from one-bedroom through to four-bedroom based on the same construction system that can be built at scale.
The one-bedroom COP26 House has a mezzanine studio and is built on a modest 10 metre by 5 metre footprint.
The house was partially manufactured offsite by Robertson Timber Engineering in their Elgin facility during August, before being transported to site in just two lorry-loads. The shell of the building was put up and within three weeks was wind and watertight.
For COP26, the house was constructed on a brownfield site, so an existing concrete slab was re-used for the foundations. For future developments, the homes can be built on concrete pads, either made from recycled aggregate or from existing concrete pads reclaimed from building demolition sites.
Designed with the circular economy in mind, at the end of its life, the house can easily be dismantled and its materials re-used or recycled.
The COP26 House is constructed as far as possible from natural materials and in particular Scottish home-grown timber.
The main structure of the house is made from homegrown C16 Sikta spruce, to avoid the need for imported timber – reducing the significant carbon impact of transport, as well as providing benefits for the local economy.
Due to the high levels of natural insulation – up to 300 millimetres of wood fibre – and design using Passivhaus principles, the house will only require heating at the coldest times of year.
The roof of the house is not only constructed from, but also clad in timber, using BSW’s IRO cladding. Inspired by the Japanese process of Yakisugi, IRO is heat enhanced and coated for a more durable and striking finish. Black IRO timber cladding was also chosen for the external walls.
By using this substantial amount of lower embodied carbon timber products, the COP26 House exceeds the most stringent RIBA 2030 Challenge targets for embodied carbon – by a substantial 22%.
Moreover, at the house completion phase, whilst the house had used 24 tonnes of carbon in building, it stored more than double this amount - storing 53 tonnes of biogenic or sequestered carbon. (see Circular Ecology life cycle analysis for more details)