Community-based design-build・Tsukuba, Ibaraki, Japan・New Solid-wood (Ita-kura) Heavy-timber (Minka) Homes・Renovations・Natural・Healthy Architecture

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Yuu Philosophy

Principles for Dwellings

2. The 150-year home
Solid Wood (ita-kura) Construction and the heavy-timber (minka) style:
Creating a dwelling to last for generations

We have adopted the “ita-kura”, or solid-wood method of building, which uses natural, non-engineered materials.
This construction method is not new, but it is rational. Using traditional methods and materials combined with current research and appropriate technology, we can create flexible housing with a long-term capacity as a “vessel for living”.
We use solid wood not only for the posts and beams, but, when appropriate, also for walls, floor, and ceiling, as was formerly common in storehouses (kura).
Our “ita-kura” walls are typically post-and-beam with infill panels made of 3 cm tongue-and-groove cryptomeria (Japanese cedar) planks.
Similarly, 3cm tongue-and-groove cryptomeria (Japanese cedar) planks make up the ceiling and floor surfaces, so that the entire house is solid wood. Compared with conventional 2 x 4 construction, this method is superior both in the greater earthquake safety and greater fire resistance of the heavy timber frame. Insulation requirements are also minimized because of the inherent insulating qualities of the wood planks, which helps reduce the need for engineered and petrochemical-based building materials. As research has shown, many engineered building materials developed in the post-war period of housing-production industrialization have damaging effects on health and the environment, and these materials often do not age well.
The construction of a family’s most important space, the home, should be for the long term. With this in mind, we design in the timeless, lasting heavy-timber “minka” style, so that the house can evolve with its inhabitants.
In this area, there are many old wood houses and buildings that are more or less inhabitable. However, with traditional heavy timber structures, even in a case where water has breached the skin of the building and the structure has been damaged, the building can usually be repaired with a little effort, and be made useful for decades in the future. These old buildings were carefully constructed by master craftsmen, and deserve to be repaired and used not only for their intrinsic cultural and artistic value, but also to promote a healthy lifestyle and sustainability. The original generously-sized post-and-beam construction style is flexible enough to respond to lifestyle changes over multiple generations.