The Charcoal Burner's house


Ben Law is Permaculturalist and woodland manager living in South-east England. His book 'The Woodland Way' (Permaculture
Books) and his ongoing development of his home and outbuildings demonstrate his belief in ecology and his commitment to sustainable Woodland management, and have been featured in 'Grand Designs'. 

The house has no services connections and is completely energy self-sufficient. Solar and Wind power generate sufficient electricity to power a 12-volt electrical system. Potable water is from a spring and non-potable water is harvested Rainwater. There are no sewers so Composting toilets and reed beds were used.

The house is built largely in round wood Sweet Chestnut, with non-load bearing straw bale external walls. 90% of all the materials were sourced and shaped by Ben from the forest or came from the locality (for example the straw bales) reducing transport and embodied energy costs. Internally, the main room is spacious and open to the roof ridge with sleeping galleries at each end. Windows are sited for their views of the forest. Whereas Architects normally prescribe exactly how a house should be built; we threw away our lists of stock materials and worked with what the woodland offered. We established designs and specifications that met the needs of Planners and Building Inspectors but which we knew a craftsman/builder such as Ben would evolve as he worked; changing doors and windows etc. according to what felt right at the time.
The result is a unique & beautiful building that harmonises completely with its woodland surroundings.

Completed: December 2002 (Eight months work)
Cost: Approx. £25,000 (Built largely by dedicated volunteers)