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FAQs

U-Build is a modular building system developed by Studio Bark. It is easy to construct, enjoyable to inhabit and quick to deconstruct at the end of its useful life. It has a number of key benefits over conventional construction:

 

This page answers common questions about our system, written by our in house U-Build experts

Why U-Build?

The aim of U-Build is to make the process of building more accessible, so that anyone with reasonable DIY skills can design, build, adapt and inhabit a space of their own.

It was conceived as a building system suitable for the circular economy, where all parts are fully demountable, ecological and recyclable.

How does it work?

 

  • The system is made of flat pack wooden panels which are produced using a computer controlled cutting machine (CNC) and are accurate to 0.1 of a millimetre.
  • The process is managed using a parametric computational workflow, which allows us to turn your design (or one of our own) into cutting drawings, costs, and visualisations at the click of a button.
  • The finalised cutting drawings are sent to one of our network of CNC fabricators, and arrive on site as a kit of parts for assembly.
  • Using basic tools, the panels are assembled into ‘boxes’ which form the building blocks of the system.
  • The boxes are stacked and bolted to form the walls, floor and roof structure.
  • The open boxes are filled with natural sheep’s wool, which is cut to size to ensure no messy cutting on site or the resulting air gaps from rough cutting.
  • The finished frame is left exposed if the structure is to be used inside, or fitted with a weather-proof membrane and cladding if outside.
  • At the end of the building’s useful life, the boxes can be taken apart and moved, recycled or sold to other U-Builders.

What can I use U-Build for?

We are constantly amazed by the ideas and creations that people come up with for their U-Build projects, from musical instruments, art sculptures to storage boxes. And that’s before we talk about buildings. Post Covid-19, lots of people have been using U-Build to maximise their available space for home working, self isolation, and have a project to do whilst at home. We’ve seen a big rise in the number of garden pod requests, as people realise that they like working from home, but don’t get much peace if they are based at the kitchen table or sofa.

Here are a few ideas of different scales:

 

Making your own furniture

The system can used within existing buildings to make internal partition walls and bookcases, or in their most basic form work really well as rugged storage boxes.

Making your own buildings

The system can be used to make fully weather-tight external buildings or to create internal ‘pods’ within existing buildings. It can make permanent structures like homes or offices, or temporary structures like mobile classrooms or site huts.

Making your own community

For larger scale projects, our self replicating ‘maker pod’ concept allows a community to develop and manage their own build process. The first pod that arrives on site can be fitted with a CNC machine, which can then be used to make, adapt and replace further building boxes.

Designing your own solution

As the U-Build system is made of adaptable and modular blocks, it is not limited to conventional buildings or furniture. There are many other potential applications from stage set design, food pop-ups, market stalls or retail interiors. If you have an idea you’d like to discuss please contact us on the Design Your Own Page.

Why not use a free 3D modelling tool like Sketchup to play around with some ideas and send them to us? We can measure directly from your model and use this to create U-Build parts for your project. 

 

Whilst we can and often do manufacture the main frame of the building in house, this doesn’t always make sense from a geographical perspective, especially if you live in another country. 

So why not just order the digital files from us instead and instruct your own local supplier to cut out the prats from our drawings? 

Which kind of U-Builder are you?

– As the name suggests, U-Build is a system that allows you to turn the vision for space into a reality, with a modular kit of building parts. These have all been precision cut at our workshop (or a fabricator near you), so it’s just a matter of assembling everything. Digital fabrication makes things easier, safer and quicker for you and empowers you to take part in the construction process.

We want to demystify the complexity of buildings and help you manage your own projects, with a sliding scale of support to help you to take on as much of the process or as little of the process as possible, as below:

 

Handy with a drill?

If you are an avid DIY or self-build fan, you have probably already accumulated all of the tools and skills that will give you a headstart with U-Build.  If you can drive in a screw with an electric drill you’re already well on your way. If you can’t, why not train yourself for free on youtube?

 

Prefer a supervisory role?

If you like the look and ethos of U-Build but would prefer for someone else to carry out the work on your behalf, then our system also works for you. All that you need to find is someone who fits the ‘handy with a drill’ or ‘trust me I’m an expert’ description to work for you, and we can work with them. 

 

Trust me, I’m an expert

If your day to day job involves carpentry or construction then we are sure you can already knock up a timber frame without any assistance. What the system offers you is the ability to access high quality, repeatable, fast to assemble components for your projects. This means you can take on more projects, or just finish early (which has the added benefit of being good for the planet). 

 

I feel so far away

Although U-Build was designed in the U-Kingdom, our digital designs can be sent all round the world, and made at a local workshop or fablab. Cutting machines the world over speak a common language, so we can make the same products in London, Bristol, Zurich and Melbourne using your local timber. For this reason (and to reduce ecological impact), we don’t ship our parts abroad; we only export our knowledge and support, plus a licence to set up your own mini U-Build production line. 

Who is behind U-Build?

The system was conceived by Studio Bark and developed through consultation with Structure Workshop and Cut and Construct.

We have worked with a number of other suppliers to help create a modular, ecological system:

Thermafleece – sheep wool insulation that is UK sourced and cut to size, meaning no wastage on site

Butyl Products – custom-sized, recyclable green roof liner, made in the UK

Back to Earth – wood fibre insulation and airtightness products

UPM – Supplier of WISA Spruce and Birch plywood panels

Building Bloqs – Open access workspace with great tools and a supportive community

Hambro Roofing – Sarnafil single ply roof system with cut to falls insulation

OSMO – Our clients often use OSMO products for protecting their wooden products with natural oil treatments

Who designs my building?

You do! Well, ok, not always… U-Build also has in house construction specialists who are are able to help you come up with your ‘design brief’ and finished design. If you already have a design, we can develop this with you to create a kit of parts, or you can choose from one of our very own U-Prints (Just like Blueprints, but without the Ble).

 

Can I build it myself?

Yes, that is the main idea behind U-Build. We can provide instructions and training to explain the construction process.

Can you help me build it?

Yes, we offer a training option where we come to site and help you assemble the boxes, and assist in building the structure. This is an especially cost effective option where you are working in a large group or community (or can bring in a group of friends!).

Our site support costs around £400 a day plus VAT; most who choose this option require around 2-3 days, and we are happy to discuss reductions for unusual or socially motivated projects. 

 

Can you build it for me?

We are a systems supplier not a contracting company, so we wouldn’t usually build your project for you unless there are special circumstances (eg an educational project).  We would encourage the training option or self build option. It is the most cost effective and provides a more rewarding experience, but of course you can also work with your own chosen local contractor.

Do you ship overseas?

We do not ship parts outside of the UK, as this doesn’t make sense from an environmental or cost perspective, but one of the great things about U-Build is that it can be sent digitally all around the world and cut at a local workshop with ‘CNC cutting facilities’.

If you are able to find a local CNC cutting workshop, structural engineer and build team in your country, then we can work with you to turn your idea into drawings and send the files to them directly for cutting.

The cost of this is based on the overall size and complexity of your design so please get in touch with details and we will create an estimate.

 

What tools will I need?

It can be assembled using very few tools. At a minimum, you need a rubber mallet and a battery powered drill with attachments. (A hand screwdriver would work but would take too long!)

All fixings are standard size bolts and screws, which can typically supplied with the system or can be sourced yourself.

To make your build easier and safer, we also recommend the following for larger projects:

-Spirit level or laser level: for setting out the ground floor especially

-Tape measure: (because it’s just handy to check things) If you have several tape measures this is really handy for setting out the building, but you can also use string to do the same thing.

-Staple gun / stanley knife (for attaching membranes)

-PPE (gloves and appropriate site boots to protect you)

Is it fireproof?

The exposed plywood finish may be suitable for some applications, however we recommend the installation of a small scale sprinkler system or non toxic fire protection coating. In our experience these approaches are both cheaper than covering the walls in (environmentally toxic) plasterboard and create a less toxic / wasteful finish.

How high can it go?

The system has already been used for projects up to 2.5 storeys in height, and we think it can go higher still. We are happy to discuss any structural queries you may have.

Health and Safety

The system has been designed to reduce the risk of accidents on site by limiting the requirement for power tools and heavy plant / machinery or cranes. The system components are designed such that they can be lifted by 1-2 people, though some larger bespoke designs may require additional lifting effort and support if you do not have the skills, knowledge or experience. Please see here for more information on health and safety as it relates to construction, including rights and responsibilities you may have under the CDM 2015 Act and here for information on CDM for self builders.

Do I need scaffolding?

We recommend fixed scaffolding by an approved scaffolding installer for buildings over a single storey, with a covered roof to protect the panels and workers from rain. For smaller projects where there will be no ‘working from height’ it may be possible to make the system using only a step ladder or access platform. If in doubt, consult an expert.

What foundations do I need?

The system requires a level base to be put together correctly, but this can usually be provided in a cost effective way. People often ask us about which foundations they need for their building, and the honest answer is… this depends on your site. There are a number of different options (see a few here) but the key is to make sure that the ground is not subject to movement and able to take the weight of the structure. We can provide information on the weight of your particular structure, which you can use when choosing a foundation type. 

Our external pods can be supported on lightweight concrete blocks, support feet or adjustable modular foundations without the need for concrete rafts and permanent foundations. For internal systems we can put the pods on adjustable feet to suit level changes. Dependent on the floor material, castor wheels can also be fitted to allow the pods to be moved around. Larger buildings or extensions to an existing building may require a more extensive foundation.

What does it cost?

Costs vary according to size, market, repeatability and location. You may wish to budget around £1000-1500 plus VAT for every square metre of internal floor space in your proposed building.

Please see our Design your own page for a simple estimate.

If you have your own cutting facilities, we are also able to quote for a ‘licence only’ option, where you pay us a one off licence cost to have the drawings made and sent to you. Licence costs start at £500 for a small pod.

Does it need to have a flat roof?

No, the system has also been used to create pitched roofs, though flat roof systems are typically more cost effective. We can also supply finishes suitable for creating green roofs, though we do not supply the green roof itself.

What materials can it be made from?

The panels can be cut out of any material that will fit on a CNC machine, but our standard panels are made from WISA spruce plywood, birch or Smartply OSB, all of which are strong, durable and environmentally friendly.

Testing and certification

The system has passed a full scale load test, where a small section of wall was able to resist a 1 tonne lateral load without destruction.

We are able to create systems which do not require any planning permission, instead they can be built under Permitted Development Rights.

The system exceeds current building regulation requirements.

Our Box House, featured on Grand Designs received a full Structural Warranty from Premier Guarantee and mortgage from Ecology Building Society.

We have also carried out additional analysis of the buildings with the University of East London and are happy to share the research on request.

What is the environmental impact of your building

The core of the U-Build system is a CNC cut plywood frame. The plywood used in the construction has zero added formaldehyde and comes from FSC certified, well managed forests. We never use tropical hardwoods or materials where we cannot be sure of the origin.

We believe in a circular economy approach to construction, where all pieces of the building can be taken apart after use and used again. This means that the same building can have many lives, and that you don’t need to take out a sledge hammer every time you want to change something in your building (even if that is fun).

We use locally sourced low impact materials wherever possible to reduce our carbon impact. If you would like us to carry out a embodied carbon impact assessment of your project this can be arranged.

We are always searching for new materials and suppliers to improve our carbon footprint, and so if you find a new product that you would like us to test and incorporate as part of your build please let us know.

Does it have good air-tightness?

Yes, we have had a full scale building tested,  and achieved air-tightness levels 4-5 times better than current building regulations requirements prior to any any air-tightness membrane being used. With the addition of the airtightness membrane and third party windows and doors we are able to get down to Passivhaus levels of airtightness.

What is the self-build register?

The Self Build Register is for local authorities to gather information on people who would like to find suitable building plots in their area of interest. To find out more and register, you can visit here.

What are U talking about? / U-Build Terminology

We try and keep things simple at U-Build, but sometimes we can’t help use techy language when describing our products. Here are a few words you may not have heard of and a brief explanation as to what they can do for you:

 

Boxes

You may often here us refer to ‘boxes’, when we talk about U-Build. That is because the basic U-Build construction block or module looks like an open sided box. The boxes stack one on top of another to make the walls. Simple!

 

CNC machine

The CNC machine is at the heart of what makes U-Build possible. It is a computer controlled cutting machine that lets us make precision cut pieces of timber panels for the system. We use special software to program the shapes we would like to be cut, load in a sheet of plywood and then let the machine do the rest. It’s a bit like a giant printer for wood.

 

Cladding 

This is the external finish of the building, the first thing you see from the outside. We often use timber, but in theory it can be anything. Cladding may also be referred to as rainscreen, timber cladding, or siding. It protects the building from driving rain and gives it the crisp aesthetic.

 

Membranes and tapes

Membranes are barriers which stop water getting into the building. Tapes are used to seal membranes to the building and to each other. We use different types of membrane depending on their position in the building. For example, on the walls, the membrane is called a ‘breather membrane’ because it is vapour open, allowing water vapour from inside the building to gradually make its way outside, and keep the structure dry. On top of the building we use a ‘roof membrane’ – typically a butyl rubber roof for flat roofs. This is thicker, and doesn’t allow water vapour through, but is also much better at stopping heavy rain, and any liquid water that may accumulate temporarily on the roof before it is directed away to the gutter

 

Fixings

We use the term fixings to refer to the connections that hold our structure together. We have two main types – 1. Screws, which are used to connect each panel of wood to the next, creating a sturdy box. 2. Bolts, which are used in connection with nuts and washers to connect one sturdy box with the next. The great thing about using these fixings compared with, say nails, is that they can be taken apart again, allowing for repair, moving and rebuilding.

 

Flat roof / fall

Although our typical buildings appear to have a flat roof (and inside the roof beams are level) the top of the roof is actually very slightly sloped, to prevent water from pooling on top of the roof. This can be achieved either with insulation which is ‘cut to falls’ (sloping) or boxes which have a built in slope. We usually choose the shortest dimension of the roof to create the slope as this limits the overall difference in height from one side to another. The difference in height for a 3m long roof is perhaps around 50mm,

How should I calculate the size of my building?

You can either work this out using internal or external dimensions depending on your project:

 

Whether you have lots of room, or a very small space, here are the main things you need to know to work out your size:

 

  1. Our internal boxes are set out on a 300mm grid. So when calculating your internal room, width, length or height, make sure it is fully divisible by 300mm (1000mm=100cm=1m). 

E.g. 10 x 300mm = 3000mm)

  1. Our typical external walls are 225mm in width, made up of 150mm insulated boxes and 75mm external cladding material. Just add 2x wall thickness to the internal length to get the external size of your building

E.g. 3000mm + 225mm + 225mm = 3450mm  

  1. For maintenance purposes, it makes sense to leave a minimum of around 400mm around the edge of the building.

E.g 3450mm + 400mm + 400mm = 4250mm

  1. Typical pods are 100-150mm off the ground and have a 150mm floor construction. So your finished floor will be 250-300mm from the ground.  
  2. The maximum roof thickness can be set at either 150mm or 300mm. 
  3. With a minimum internal ceiling height of 2.1metres, this means we are able to just meet the 2.5 metre maximum permitted development height in the UK, for buildings adjacent to a boundary.

I'm still not quite sure how the system goes together. What next?

The system come with instructions that are easy to follow. You can also call us for support. We want you to succeed after all!

Permission to build

Depending on where you live in the world, your local or national authorities may place restrictions on the size and type of building you can create. We recommend that you do some research into your rights and responsibilities in order to make sure your build goes as safely and smoothly as possible. And then there is the small concern of budget, which is often a constraint in projects. The best advice here is to compare us with other companies to check that you are getting a good deal or look at independent resources to help with general costing advice.  

In the United Kingdom, here are a few links you might find useful:

 

Planning and building control for garden rooms /outbuildings

https://www.planningportal.co.uk/info/200130/common_projects/43/outbuildings/2     

 

Health and safety information for clients

https://www.hse.gov.uk/pubns/indg411.htm

 

Self build portal – general advice on starting a project

https://selfbuildportal.org.uk/get-support/

 

Property workshop – other ideas for improving your property

https://propertyworkshop.com/property-investment/do-i-need-planning-permission/

 

Permitted Development height

Here in England, the maximum height you can build within 2 metres of the boundary is 2.5 metres. We can meet this height with our pods, and can also go much higher if required.          

What comes in the box

U-Build helps you to source a range of compatible components for your build and delivers them to your door with assembly instructions. It’s a bit like a giant veg box*

*please don’t actually eat the U-Build parts, even if they do look tasty. 

 

A typical U-Build delivery contains the following elements:

1.Drawings: Showing your customised project 

2.Instructions: Step by step instructions on how to assemble the pod

3.U-Build: A flat pack kit of plywood boxes which are assembled to form the floors, walls and roof of your building. Sometimes we also make the furniture too!

4.Fixings: All of the nuts, bolts, screws and washers you need to assemble the boxes

5.Doors and windows: These are made from plywood and require site assembly / finishing

6.Insulation: This fits into the boxes to keep everything warm. Typically sheep wool for the walls and floor. For the roof, we use tapered flat roof insulation which goes on top of the pod and creates a fall so that water can run off, or we can also use wood fibre.  

7.Waterproofing: A breather membrane for the walls and base of the pod, and a butyl membrane for the roof. 

8.Support feet: Adjustable feet to help you set the building out on a level base

 

What extras can we provide?

 

  1. Cladding: The timber used to create the exterior finish of the building
  2. Site support and training: assistance

Flooring

Our U-Build panels are 18mm thick and suitable as a finished floor. They are matched to your chosen wall material, so there is no need to buy a secondary floor finish. This means that you can choose WISA spruce, Birch or Smartply OSB as your finish. We do recommend that you treat the flooring with a protective coating (OSMO or similar) to prevent wear and tear. We advise against polyurethane based varnishes or finishes with high VOC content as these are often toxic, and can result in microplastic pollution at all stages of the construction / use / end of use cycle.  

 

It is possible to install a secondary layer of flooring on top of the U-Build structure, but we can’t see why you would want to when the panels look this good. If you keep the U-Build floor as it comes, the panels can also be unscrewed so you can access underneath for cables and maintenance.

Cladding

Cladding is the material that you see on the exterior of the pod. It acts as a ‘rainscreen’ to protect the waterproof membrane behind from damage, and completes the external appearance.  You can use any cladding you like, but we love timber so typically provide Western Red Cedar, Douglas Fir or Larch depending on availability. It is UK grown, has a durability class of 3, plus it looks and smells beautiful. We supply 50 x 25mm battens which arrive as linear lengths to be cut down to size on site. These can be attached horizontally, vertically or diagonally. 

Herringbone / Chevron cladding

Lots of people ask us about our signature cladding which follows a chevron / herringbone pattern (first seen on Manbey Pod, Studio Bark’s beautifully designed U-Build structure. To achieve this effect, the timber is made into individual panels (a bit like trellis) and then attached onto battens on the U-Build pod. 

 

The cladding panel process means that no screws are visible on the front face of the cladding, and the panels are easy to take off individually for maintenance. Our in house developed software (known affectionately as AutoCLAD) works out the number, length and shape of the different parts and creates a cutting list, which can either be sent for you / carpenter to produce from scratch or cut to length here at U-Build’s workshop. To keep the ‘U’ in U-Build, we encourage people to try assembling the panels using one of our specially designed cladding jigs, but we can also supply this at an additional cost. 

If you like this style but are conscious of time and budget, one idea to save time and costs is to use herringbone cladding for the front only, and use horizontal timber for the back and sides. 

Cork cladding

Lots of our clients have been asking us about the use of this wonderful natural-material as a cladding for their building. Cork is actually the bark of the cork oak tree (Quercus suber L) which grows in Mediterranean regions, most particularly, in Portugal, where there are more than 720 thousand hectares of cork forests.

 

This bark has amazing qualities. It is strong, durable, provides thermal and acoustic insulation, and is resistant to fire, water and rot. The Cork Oak replaces its bark every 9 years, which means that it can be harvested without damaging the tree. The tree itself can live for up to 250 years, fostering a local industry of stewardship and investment in the natural environment.

 

Cork blocks are produced from leftover pieces of the wine cork making process. The discarded cork granules are too resinous to be used for wine corks, but are perfect for making into insulation blocks. By heating the granules they expand to fill a mould, and their natural resin is released, binding the granules into a solid block form, without any glues or additives. The largest sizes currently available are 1000 x 500 x 300, and they can be cut to size or milled as required. For more information about building with cork see Studio Bark’s prototype research building here. We have a number of buildings clad in cork underway at the moment and look forward to sharing more information on them soon.

Windows and doors

You can either provide your own windows and doors or we can arrange them for you. Our own windows are made up from flat-pack using sealed double glazed units and three layers of plywood. See examples here These are good functional windows suitable for many garden room projects, but are not as airtight or high security as a specialist window company is able to provide. The exception here is for large fixed windows where we can provide a good seal.  

 

If you wish to source your own, we can work with almost any window type except UPVC, which our environmental policy does not permit us to work with. To help you in the process, we will  provide the structural opening sizes of your windows after the initial consultation process and support you in making the choice of opening so that the two systems work together. In terms of size the windows can be as big or as small to your taste, even if you wanted a whole side being made of glass we can make that happen.

 

We can also supply roof windows or incorporate your chosen roof windows, but these come at a premium as they require a number of bespoke elements to be made up. 

Insulation 

For our standard garden room construction we can get the U-value to building regulations levels of 0.3W/m2k and for our double thickness wall construction we can get the U-Value to 0.15W/m2k. We usually use sheep wool for the walls and floor, though we can also use wood fibre (or most other insulation types). The particular wool we use contains a borax based fire retardant and does not require the addition of an insecticide.

Plumbing and Electrics 

– The building can be fitted with plumbing, electrics and heating in a similar manner to any other structure. You can opt for a grid connected approach, running services into the U-Build structure, or you can choose an off-grid set up with composting toilet, solar panels and log burning stove. We don’t arrange the installation of these services but we are happy to support you with the information you need to help your chosen tradesperson work with our system. 

Surface treatments / coatings

Our internal and external timber products arrive untreated, so that you can either leave them to weather naturally or apply your chosen treatment. The life expectancy of the external timber can be increased through the application of a surface treatment. A number of our clients often use OSMO, which is a natural wood oil that does not flake, blister, or cause micro-plastic pollution (unlike many conventional paints).  OSMO needs reapplying every few years depending on product type and situation, and the cladding itself can be unscrewed and replaced if required.

 

To keep the interior looking its best we recommend that the interior surfaces are treated with a natural wood oil such as OSMO, which can protect the surface against dust, water marks, and the natural yellowing of the timber caused by UV light. It is quite hard to break the 18mm plywood, but if the worst happens and you do cause some damage, the majority of the panels can simply be unscrewed from the inside and replaced (we store a digital copy of all of your parts in case you ever need them again) 

Life expectancy

Different parts of a building have different life expectancies. If kept dry and on firm ground, the main structure of the U-Build could last a several lifetimes – many timber buildings are hundreds of years old. But that doens’t mean they don’t need maintenance to keep up appearances… So when we talk of life expectancy, most people are often referring to the exterior surfaces, which are the most exposed to the elements and are therefore the most vulnerable to damage. These are typically the roof, timber cladding, windows and membranes as below:

 

Our typical roof material is a butyl rubber membrane which is UV-stable, non-toxic and has a working life of up to 50 years. Our typical supplier Butyl Products Ltd offers guarantees up to 20 years on their products.

 

The exterior timber cladding material we use most often UK grown Western Red Cedar, which has a durability class of 3, and has an estimated life expectancy of 15-30 years above ground, depending on site conditions. The life expectancy of the timber can be increased through the application of a surface treatment. A number of our clients often use OSMO, which is a natural wood oil that does not flake, blister, or cause micro-plastic pollution (unlike many conventional paints).  OSMO needs reapplying every few years depending on product type and situation, so it makes sense to leave access around the building for maintenance, or construct it in such a way that light, moisture and animals are not able to get inside. 

 

Behind the timber cladding is a breather membrane, which works in combination with the cladding to keep the walls dry. Cheaper breather membranes on the market break down easily in UV light. We have two choices of membrane – a UV and fire rated membrane with over 10 year life expectancy from back to earth or a UV and fire rated membrane from Illbruck which claims to be permanently UV stable. 

 

The windows of your building may degrade for a number of reasons – the main weaknesses are the seals of the double glazed units and the material of the frame itself. We can incorporate a glazing system of your choice, or provide timber windows as a flat pack, which require assembly and maintenance, and therefore no guarantee, though the individual glazing supplier may be willing to replace glass that is found to be defective. 

 

To keep the interior looking its best we recommend that the interior surfaces are treated with a natural wood oil such as OSMO, which can protect the surface against dust, water marks, and the natural yellowing of the timber caused by UV light. It is quite hard to break the 18mm plywood, but if the worst happens and you do cause some damage, the majority of the panels can simply be unscrewed from the inside and replaced (we store a digital copy of all of your parts in case you ever need them again) 

 

As a general caveat here, U-Build is acting only as a facilitator to assist your build, and the quality of any of the products can be affected by the quality of the installation or external supplier.

 

Things fall apart / Maintenance

Like all things, U-Build buildings require maintenance in order to keep them in good condition.

 

There are many products on the market which claim to be zero maintenance. What this usually means is that the external cladding material is made from UPVC, plastic or metal or composites (plastic and wood mixed together). They may well be correct that you will not need to paint or work on the buildings as often, but at what ecological cost? This is why we often suggest timber as our main internal and external timber finish

 

We don’t try to hide that our products will need maintenance. Instead, we try to make it as easy and low impact as possible for you to when you do it. 

We think that natural weathering gives character to buildings, and that maintenance is a necessary part of low carbon architecture. Applying surface treatments is a good way to improve the lifespan, but again please think about the surface treatment you are applying. If it is a polymer coating or other plastic based coating, that means you are simply coating a natural timber in plastic and storing up lots of future issues for the environment.

We also try and make our products in a way that they can be taken apart again, so we use screws, bolts, and removable panels. All things change, so it just makes sense to plan for it.

 

 

Access (around the building)

Our typical U-Build structures are built using a series of interlocking boxes, with the open face towards the outside. The open face is then filled with insulation, before being wrapped with a breather membrane and external cladding. This means that when planning your building size, it makes sense to leave an access gap all the way around the building, to give you room for fitting insulation and cladding. This same gap will be useful to carry out any maintenance in the future We suggest a gap of 400-500mm where possible (remember to take into account the width of the cladding that you choose to install when calculating this). 

 

For smaller sites where it is not possible to leave this amount of space, we do have a couple of options which enable you to build close to the boundary. The first option is to assemble one or two complete walls away from the boundary and then slide them into position. The second is to use our pre-insulated cassette system which can be assembled from the inside. 

 

In either case, thought should be given to the detailing of the boundary to ensure that the gap between the boundary is protected from the elements and animals squeezing behind the structure. One option is to install a flashing which closes the gap between your building and the fence/ wall boundary (subject to any required permission with your neighbour). 

Access (into the building)

Our typical buildings use a timber floor system which is suspended above the ground on support feet. This is the most common way to build a timber floor, and it allows us to reduce / eliminate our need for concrete, depending on the structure. However this does mean that our standard floor finish sits around 300mm (30cm) off the ground, which can cause a problem for those requiring level access to their buildings. The solutions in this instance are to: 

-create a level access to the entrance of the building using landscaping or a ramp (a 300mm incline requires a 3.6m ramp to meet a typical 1:12 pitch), or

-create your own level insulated base by excavating into the soil, and then use the U-Build system for the walls and roof only. This requires a bit more careful setting out than when using the U-Build floor system but it certainly can be done.

You say that you are not for profit... what does that mean?

U-Build is a socially driven business with the aim of creating better buildings for people, and empowering them to build in a more ethical way.

We keep our prices low, and promote products and services that we think are better for people and planet.

We support eductation, social enterprises, charities and activist groups with access to modular building systems and are happy to discuss future support with anyone that has an idea for how to use our designs to make the world a better place.

U-Build is a company limited by guarantee not by shares, which means that it doesn’t have shareholders.

We commit to reinvesting a minimum of 50% of any profit made back into the business.

We pay fair wages to our staff and suppliers, sourcing from the UK wherever possible to minimise our carbon footprint.

 

Sound recording studios

Yes we can make them! We have worked with a number of different clients to make recording spaces. We haven’t yet collected any data on the performance of the sound treatment processes but we are happy to discuss your requirements and work with you to create a sound studio, whether standalone in an outside space or inside an existing building. We think they look great… here’s an example

Tiny Houses

These awesome structures are built on the back of a trailer, so that their owners can take their houses with them. Tiny houses are all about economy in terms of size, cost and environmental impact. We think they have a great future role to play in our fight to decarbonise the way that we live. We are excited to be working on our first tiny house project and will be sharing more information as the project progresses. If you want to build tiny houses, or have land that can take tiny houses, please get in touch with us.

What is the lead time for your products

A garden-room-sized order is typically 4 – 6 weeks from when you place an order. Other projects may be longer or shorter depending on complexity.

 

It is movable / demountable?

One of the benefits of the U-Build system is that it is designed to be taken apart again so that you can take it with you. This means you can invest in a pod or other structure even if you live/work in rented accommodation, or plan to move in the future. The building can be broken down into easily manageable box shaped elements, which can be packed into a van (a Luton van or 7.5t vehicle is usually suitable) or the whole thing can even be fully flat packed, to take up even less space for transit / longer term storage. 

Can I have a green roof and can you supply one? 

The butyl roofing material that we used for our typical flat roof projects are specifically designed to be suitable bases for green roofs, so yes you can install one. We don’t supply the green roof itself, so you would need to speak to a specialist to provide the drainage layer, growing medium and planting. We can provide you with the information you need for the specialist to be able to quote and help you manage the process.