MAKAR is "an architect-led design and build service delivering contemporary ecological homes;" it's principal, Neil Sutherland, was in Washington to attend Greenbuild. After meeting him at a Unity Homes reception I had a look at his website; I am always intrigued by architects who go into building and construction as well as just design. And the more I looked, the more impressed I became; MAKAR is not only doing interesting work, but they are on the cutting edge of sustainable design, as they describe it:
We believe in delivering healthy and inspiring homes that are sensitive to the environment. Produced by a local workforce, MAKAR support the Scottish economy by sourcing high quality materials from our network of the best suppliers. Our commitment to using homegrown timber has kept the company at the forefront of pioneering work to further the application of this resource, which is apparent in the bespoke architecture we produce.
They cover all the bases, building homes that are energy efficient, using natural materials. They are healthy buildings with low carbon footprints, built from local materials.
Oh, and they are prefab flatpacks, built from a Natural Structural Insulated Panel that they put together in their own 4500 square foot factory. But these are not SIPs as we know them;
The most common Structural Insulated Panel [SIP] or closed panel systems use polyurethane or polystyrene insulation at their core. Both materials are derived from petrochemicals which have been linked to toxic off-gassing and will have a negative impact on the environment after the lifespan of the building. MAKAR has developed their own closed panel system which differs from panels produced by most other manufacturers through the intergration of locally grown timber and natural insulation materials. MAKAR use cellulose and sheeps' wool insulation as an alternative means of achiving good energy performance. Insulation in MAKAR's closed panel is sealed between the interior and exterior surfaces of the cassette whilst in factory conditions ensuring that insulation material is not exposed to moisture on site. The panel can also be pre-plumbed and wired before arriving on site to further accelerate the construction process.
They are also experimenting with acetylated timber (more on Accoya here on TreeHugger) and are even making their own Brettstapel, a technique of building up solid wood panels that are held together with dowels, and have given it a clever name which I hope they trademarked, Dowellam. It's an interesting product because unlike Cross-laminated timber, which requires a couple of million dollars worth of presses and other equipment, just about anyone with access to wood can make Brettstapel. (more on Brettstapel on TreeHugger here and a mountain bike center built of it here)
The aim was to create a healthy living environment by using natural building materials including timber, cellulose and sheep's wool that enable the home to breathe. We avoided the use of materials that are made from petro-chemicals that are known to off-gas toxins into the air. After the lifespan of the build, the materials we have chosen will not have a negative impact on the environment.
Neil and his Scottish friends had quite a laugh at the Unity Homes party; no doubt the laugh is on all of us here in North America who are just beginning to look at sustainable design in such a disciplined and thorough manner, who are just starting to do green prefabricated walls like this, (more to come on Unity Homes themselves, who use similar technology) and where architects rarely become design-builders of this scale and sophistication. Very impressive stuff from MAKAR.