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We Can Make: Construction begins on a strawbale house

Over the spring of 2017 a large wooden structure has slowly taken shape behind Filwood Community Centre. The moveable house is fully plumbed and wired, has walls made of straw bales, triple-glazed windows and a large wooden deck. Known as the TAM (Transportable Accommodation Module), the eco-friendly home is big enough to house a couple – and it will open its doors to the public soon!

The TAM has been built as part of  We Can Make…Homes. Led by Knowle West Media Centre (KWMC), the programme has brought together local people, architects, artists, policy-makers, academics and housing industry professionals. Together, we’ve been exploring how communities can play a greater role in creating new homes – including deciding where and how they are built.

Housing is now the least affordable it has ever been in the UK, with the average house costing 7.6 times average annual income, compared to 3.6 times in 1997 (Office of National Statistics 2017). Communities like Knowle West need more affordable options. We Can Make has developed five new affordable designs for homes, including the TAM, that would suit the many ‘microsites’ that exist in Knowle West (located in large gardens, spaces between houses and on the corners of streets), and which would allow building work to be carried out by local contractors and at local cost.

Melissa Mean, Head of Arts at KWMC, explains: “From our research and conversations with families in Knowle West we’ve seen that the current, competitive, housing system doesn’t work for many people – they are struggling to find the kind of home they need at a price they can afford. However, there’s a keen interest in trying something new. 90% of people we asked said they thought ‘micro-plot’ homes were a good idea for the neighbourhood and 73% thought they were a good idea for their street.”

The TAM is one of the five designs developed through We Can Make and the first to be built. Created by Bristol-based architecture company White Design, the TAM uses the ModCell straw bale building system and materials provided by Coobio, a renewable materials innovation company. Local people have been helping to build it too.

Local people have been working with artists Charlotte Biszewski and Alex Goodman to make the new house a home, using natural dyes to make curtains, cushions and tiles. The kitchen of the TAM will also be designed and made by local people over the summer months, using digital fabrication tools at KWMC: The Factory at Filwood Green Business Park.

The TAM will open its doors for the first time on Thursday 7th September with a housewarming party and BBQ; all are welcome and you can register for a free ticket at There will also be tours of the house at Knowle West Fest on Saturday 9th September.

In September and October the TAM will be available to local people who would like to try out living in a community-made house. Get in touch with Martha King at KWMC on 0117 903 0444 if you would like to find out more about staying a night, or even a week, in the TAM.

Craig White, the architect behind the TAM, adds: “If anyone is passing Filwood Community Centre, do drop by and say hello. We’d love to show you around – and during the summer you could even help with a bit of decorating. We’ve loved working with everyone in Filwood – my company, White Design, might have designed it, but the TAM is definitely made in Knowle West.”

Come along to the housewarming party on 7th September and find out more!


Contact Us

Knowle West Media Centre
Leinster Avenue
Knowle West
+44 (0) 117 903 0444

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