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The design and build of the UK’s first self-build, fully autonomous live/work timber studio in the Botanic Gardens, Dundee.


The Macro Micro Studio is a 50m2 Passivhaus standard, off-grid demonstrator developed and built by the University of Dundee’s Macro Micro research unit, a Department of Architecture Masters Unit. The project is unique in itself, and also to Kickstarter, in that it is completely student led and built with a start date for construction in December 2012 and a projected completion date in May 2013. A project like this is a rarity on Kickstarter but we feel that the innovative and pioneering nature of the studio design and build means that it sits well within the aims and ethos of the Kickstarter website and those who use it. It will forge new collaborations between researchers, designers and industry professionals thereby generating new knowledge and solutions that are affordable, self-build and net-zero energy.

The design and technologies within the studio will be tested in real-world scenarios over a period of four years, generating an understanding of the relationship between user behaviour and technical performance. The project has gained significant support from industry in terms of in-kind expertise, direct funding, with £140,000 worth of materials and components being contributed for the build.

The construction uses an innovative Scottish manufactured timber system, the Cullen Space Stud, which makes use of locally grown C16 structural timber. It gives increased wall depth while minimising thermal bridging and increasing the ability to self-build at low cost. The Studio also makes use of a novel foamed concrete raft foundation slab, which has been contributed by ProPump, which provides structure and insulation in a single material reducing groundwork costs.

Macro Micro Studio, aims and objectives

The aim is to mainstream regional focused and contextually responsive solutions for off-grid renewable energy buildings in order to address challenges that the construction sector faces. The building will be open to the public and will showcase these new strategies and their wider applicability to the housing sector and home owners. It will provide a seminar space for outreach activities to industry, the professions, colleges and schools, studio space for the Botanic Gardens artist in residence and a rentable office space.

Botanic Gardens, Dundee
Botanic Gardens, Dundee

The objectives of the project are to go beyond the UK’s current and future environmental legislation governing energy efficiency of buildings. This is done by providing a Passivhaus compliant, off-grid building that relies on renewable energy sources as the only means of generating space heating, hot water and power. Preliminary modelling has shown this can be achieved using a vertical axis wind turbine and  24m2 array of photovoltaic (PV) panels to run technical systems, LED lighting and appliances. A 60kW/h lithium ion battery unit will provide three days of energy storage at 56.45oN, a latitude that creates a very specific approach to the generation and management of energy in the Studio in order to meet demands throughout the year. The building also incorporates 6m2 of solar thermal panels, a composting toilet and a water harvesting system. 

MacroMicro construction schedule
MacroMicro construction schedule

Developing a new industry standard

The self-build is being delivered by a multi-disciplinary team from across the University comprising of the Macro Micro Studio, a Masters Unit within Architecture in the School of the Environment working together with researchers from the Department of Physics, Mechanical and Civil Engineering at the University of Dundee, we are also working in collaboration with Forestry Commission. The project has gained significant support from industry in terms of in-kind expertise, direct funding, with materials and components being contributed for the build. Buro Happold Engineers are providing expertise for the structural design and the Building Control Department at Dundee City Council are advising on regulatory and technical feasibility aspects of the project.

The studio will be continually monitored post occupancy by the University of Dundee to evaluate performance of the design and services which will begin to inform future projects. Through an innovative and education led design we feel that the project can open up opportunities to inspire or inform the architecture and construction industries and future student led projects. The Marco Micro Studio is a student led project and so by opening it up to a wider audience it will increase the educational possibilities and industry interest which can only benefit the continual development of the Passivhaus movement in the UK.

The Book

By producing a professional published book we aim to situate the project as an exemplar example of an ultra-low energy, affordable live/work prototype. The book will reflect the innovative, pioneering nature of the build and will be available for sale online. The final publication will include project drawings, schematics, technical information, and construction images as well a number of research and analytical essays. Forwards are to be provided by Dr Neil Burford (Architecture), Dr Rod Jones (Engineering), and Dr David Rodley (Physics) and special mention will be made of all the major contributors.

The published book will include a collection of essays written by the Macro Micro Students about an area of the studio that interests them. The ‘essays’ will be the main part to the thesis work of each student must do to comply with the Masters curriculum. A broad range of topics will be discussed in these essays ranging from the theoretical assessment of the studio as a prototype or the detailed analysis of the studios construction and performance as Passivhaus self-build.

Funding

The nature of the project, a student led research project, means that it is completely self-funded. We have been extremely lucky to receive a large amount of in kind donations in the form of construction materials or professional services. However there are certain items which we have been unable source, such as transportation costs or the cost of prototyping.

MacroMicro funding breakdown
MacroMicro funding breakdown

Kickstarter provides the perfect platform for us to reach out to design minded people who are keen to a part of such an innovative and unique project. The potential legacy and industry wide impact of this project is huge, which is shown by the calibre of the collaborators we have on board, and we are all extremely excited to be involved as are all the different individuals who contributed their materials, services or knowledge to this project.

If you would like to know more about the project before backing our project then please visit our web links below:

blog - http://macromicrodundee.wordpress.com/

website - http://macromicro.co.uk/

MacroMicro Studio
MacroMicro Studio

Risks and challenges Learn about accountability on Kickstarter

With an installation date fast approaching we are already working hard on final detailing of the structure, beginning to organise the delivery of materials, and starting to organise mock-ups. One of the final challenges we have to overcome is the raising of funds. But with a little help from the Kickstarter community we can raise the funds which will allow the project to really take off.

As student led project there are a number of risks involved in terms of our own industry and construction experience which we have mitigated these risks by having on board a range of highly qualified individuals from a number disciplines to aid us. The mock up will not only help us finalise the details and answer buildability issues but also allow us to perfect our construction skills in preparation for the final build.

Our final completion date of May 2013 has been locked in place by our Degree Show within the Architecture Department of the University of Dundee as well as the external examination of our work for our Master's Degree. Around these dates we will also be having an opening event for the public as well as a private event for all the major contributors. It will be a tight timescale but we are confident that with careful programming and planning we can meet all the major milestones successfully and have a completed studio by May.

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    We will produce, for you, a unique foamed concrete paperweight in the form of the MacroMicro Studio building. This option is the smallest in a range of 3 sizes.

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    We will produce, for you, a unique foamed concrete paperweight in the form of the MacroMicro Studio building. This option is the largest in a range of 3 sizes.

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    Be a part of the building. Have your name or business permanently engraved along with all our contributors within the studio itself.

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    A copy of the final published MacroMicro research book. Your name or business will also be added to our official contributors list and acknowledged in the book.

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    A copy of the final published MacroMicro research book and a personal invitation to the launch event at the completed studio in the Botanic Gardens - Dundee, Scotland.

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    We will produce a bespoke foamed concrete memento for you in any form you wish. We will model and create the object specific to your chosen design.

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Funding period

- (30 days)