Graven Hill Education House

A stunning timber finish for inspirational self-build

About this project

To celebrate its 30th anniversary, Build It magazine set about building a prototype house that would showcase self-build systems and technologies, inspiring the next generation of self-builders by providing a detailed insight into the entire build process, and offering the opportunity to visit and tour the completed property.

Located on a site at Graven Hill in Bicester – currently the largest self-build development in the UK – Build It commissioned Iapd Architects to design a self-build house with a ‘wow’ factor.

Tasked with designing the property with a limited budget in mind, Iapd opted for an ICF (insulated concrete framework) construction system which would be finished with contemporary timber cladding to provide the high-end look they desired.

Showcasing design choices for self-builders

Iapd’s remit was to show a range of design options and practical possibilities for self-builders embarking on their own projects. The building also demonstrates a range of products and materials so that self-builders can see how they perform in situ.

The Education House is free to visit and is open to all members of the public. In addition, it is designed to be a central meeting place for local tradespeople and self-builders to meet, creating a space where mutually beneficial connections between the supply chain and end-users can be formed.

Once it has run its course as an educational facility, the house will be sold as a residential home to cover the cost of the build.

Use of timber

The roof was constructed from timber SIPs (structural insulated panels), providing the height and grace of vaulted ceilings together with a fully insulated loft space from the outset.

For the external finish, Iapd selected Russwood’s SILA Select® Siberian Larch in a 70mm width rainscreen profile. Created from the best available grades of timber, Iapd chose the cladding for its excellent durability, attractive design and versatility. It has a lifespan of 50 -100 years when correctly detailed and subjected to usual outdoor exposure.

The cladding was treated with Russwood’s SiOO:X treatment, which ensures the timber retains its natural beauty while offering an accelerated uniform weathered finish. The treatment provides a protective barrier against insect attack and rot while turning the timber an even silver-grey tone within 10-16 weeks.

Held in place with invisible fixings from FassadenClip® and L-GoFix® A2 screws, the cladding retains its clean, contemporary finish.

Timber joinery

The team opted for timber windows with the frames made from factory-painted engineered softwood. Correctly treated, slow-grown softwood delivers impressive durability. In addition, the windows could have a different finish depending on their location in property. The team opted for white on the ground floor and the hallway apex, with a natural timber finish of clear lacquered pine upstairs.

Meanwhile, internal oak-veneered timber doors, together with a bespoke timber staircase complete the warm contemporary look inside.  

Completed in 2019, the Education House was awarded an RICS Social Impact Award 2020 for the South East Residential Category.

Key contacts

Further Information



lapd Architects


 BuildIt Magazine and Richard Gadsby Photography

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