Phil Jones and Jane Davidson

Welsh build system in Washington DC

An award-winning modular building system for affordable housing that uses sustainable Welsh wood was the international spotlight at a major cultural festival in Washington DC this summer.

Coed Cymru showcased the timber frame Ty Unnos (house built in one night) at the Smithsonian Folklife Festival, June 24 to July 5.

A specially designed version of Ty Unnos, designed by the Design Research Unit Wales, was shipped across to the United States and assembled for the festival, which took place on the National Mall, scene of President Obama's inauguration.

The capital of the United States took on a distinctly Welsh flavour as Wales is the featured nation at the festival, which attracted more than one million visitors.

Ty Unnos is a project that has been developed by Coed Cymru over the past two years in partnership with The Welsh School of Architecture and Bangor University. Funded by the Countryside Council for Wales, Wood Knowledge Wales, a Wales Forest Business Partnership initiative, Environment Agency and Powys County Council, the project's mission is to develop a system of high performance affordable housing based on the properties of home-grown timber.

The building system comprises a series of portal frames made from Welsh spruce beams. Secondary ladder beams span between these frames to form floor and ceiling joists and wall studs before pre-insulated infill panels with voids for windows and doors are attached.

Ty Unnos was chosen for the Wales Smithsonian Cymru activity for its focus on sustainability and for bringing together ancient Welsh building traditions with new technology.

The Ty Unnos system, which is being manufactured by Oswestry company Elements Europe, has won five major awards for innovation in the last five months and is attracting international interest.