Tog Studio – Helping people build

Conceived by a team of Scottish Architects, Tog Studio provide a unique on-site learning experience, addressing gaps missing from conventional education in the construction sector. The diverse teams have included professional architects and engineers looking for first hand construction experience; self-build enthusiasts seeking knowledge on how to take on a construction project; and students wanting learn how to design and detail buildings.

Tog House is located on the Isle of Tiree in the Inner Hebrides on the West Coast of Scotland and is a new-build extension to a traditional Tiree ‘Blacktop’ House. Although the extension is contemporary in its design, it pays homage to traditional details of these vernacular buildings that have evolved to resist the worst Atlantic weather.

Incorporating an aerodynamic curved ridge and recessed eaves to prevent uplift of the roof in high winds, meanwhile the timber frame and thick walls of natural insulation produce a comfortable interior environment that will meet modern energy performance standards.

Breathable material

The external walls of the Tog House are designed to be ‘breathing’ walls.  By constructing a wall with an easy way out for moisture we can be confident that the materials in the wall build-up will be able to dry out and remain in good condition. This ability of the walls to ‘breathe’ and release moisture makes for a healthier building.

Breathing walls are made up of materials that will naturally absorb and release moisture, and so we opted to use a combination of wood fibre board on the outside of the wall and Thermafleece, sheep’s wool insulation from Eden Renewable innovations Ltd, within the wall as insulation.

Natural Material

Many building products are manufactured from petrochemicals, have a high embodied energy or contain toxic preservatives that are known to off-gas into the surrounding environment.  Although these types of insulation products are highly effective as construction materials, their production has a negative impact on the environment and they will ultimately leave a legacy beyond the lifespan of the building when they do not biodegrade when they are disposed of and those preservatives used are absorbed into the soil.

During construction of the Tog House, if we were left with any offcuts and scraps from the Thermafleece we could be confident that these would break down in the soil without causing any harm to the environment.  The Tog House is being constructed on a remote Hebridean island with a large population of grazing sheep.  It was reassuring to know that if a strong wind caught some of the Thermafleece offcuts from site they might be blown next to tufts of wool scratched off by other sheep here and simply degrade in the same way.  Had we been working with a plastic insulation we would have been running after it!

Safe to work with

During the summer we have been running a ‘live-build’ construction school where we teach young architects how buildings are made through first hand experience of building a house. Having worked with other types of insulation that irritate your skin, or when cut release harmful dust particles into the air, we were eager to avoid exposing the Tog Studio participants to these risk. Working with sheep’s wool on site was a welcome alternative.  The inert qualities of this natural material gave us piece of mind that we wouldn’t be asking too much of those who were building with us and we wouldn’t need to wear the same degree of protective equipment install the insulation.

British Product

Using a product that was grown and made in the UK was very appealing.  We like to support local enterprise and selecting a product that is sourced and made in the UK would help to reduce the overall carbon footprint of our project whilst benefiting the economy.

Transport Costs

Transport costs are considerable when you live on a remote island.  Thermafleece was packaged into compacted rolls that are easy to handle and expand when they are opened.  This helped us to save on the overall volume of materials we would be paying to ship in for the project.”

To find out more about other Tog Studio projects or future live-build schools visit the Tog Studio website www.togstudio.co.uk, email Tog at info(Replace this parenthesis with the @ sign)togstudio.co.uk or phone Roots Architecture on 01879 220 482.

*Tog – A Gaelic word meaning: to build, raise educate and excite