Welsh School of Architecture staff

Steve Coombs

Research Associate (DRU)
Steve Coombs
Research Group Architectural Science Group
Address Bute Building,
King Edward VII Avenue
CF10 3NB
Email coombsS@cardiff.ac.uk
Telephone 029 2087 5972
Fax 029 2087 4926

Steve is currently co-chair of the 2nd year of the BSc degree, a chartered architect and a Research Associate within the Design Research Unit Wales (DRUw).

DRUw was established with the aim to found the creative activities of the design studio on a sound research-based approach. Although a relatively young organisation, DRUw has attracted a number of commissions in which research-based design is married to notions of sustainability, tectonics, material innovation, environmental and functional performance, and economy. Steve was part of the DRU-w team that were runners-up in the Building Design Young Architect of the Year Awards, 2007 and 2010.

Steve is actively engaged, and publishing from, design research within DRU-w covering topics of sustainability, landscape and material innovation, while also developing a personal interest in making. Evolving from a variety of different perspectives and disciplines, his research, and teaching is primarily centred on the field of construction and materiality – tectonics and the art of makin. Often in collaboration with industry and other specialists, these research topics include:

  • Critical studies in tectonic form, materials and technique;
  • Contemporary design with homegrown timber;
  • Modern Methods of Construction (MMC);
  • Sustainable design and design guidance.

Over the last decade Steve has been working closely with the Welsh timber industry, on the use of home-grown Welsh timber in contemporary architecture through innovating, developing and prototyping timber construction methods. His collaboration has involved working with a wide range of disciplines to develop a value added architecture led by craft, performance and sustainability. As project architect, his research has led to a range of innovative projects, from visitor centres to smaller scale prototypes and experiments, that are informed by context, form, sustainability, detail and cost. He is previously lead a Technology Strategy Board funded research project on the award winning low cost Sitka spruce social housing system, Ty Unnos, that has lead to projects for a low energy house, classroom, exhibition pavilion, visitor centre and cycling centre. Further projects include:

  • Prefabricated, zero carbon, social housing schemes as part of a Welsh Assembly funded research project to evaluate and develop Modern Methods of Construction in Wales that also led to the development of a Welsh manufactured timber closed panel system;
  • The concept design of Margam Discovery Centre, an environmental demonstration and accommodation building in a Grade I listed landscape at Margam Country Park that used timber volumetric pods to increase quality and reduce costs and timescales; and
  • Furniture as prototypes for larger construction methods, or as experiments in the modular and efficient use of off-the-shelf timber products.

In 2007, Steve was invited to be on the panel of judges for the Estonian timber architecture award as part of the Interreg III C Network project GATE (Gaining Added value for Timber in Europe). He has presented reports and papers on timber cladding and construction at conferences and seminars by Wood Knowledge Wales, BRE Wales, WRAP and RSAW. In 2009, with DRU-w, he won the Cardiff University Innovation Award and the Architecture & Surveying Award from the Chartered Institute of Building for early research and development on a low-tech, modular and recyclable, Sitka spruce construction system for affordable, rural housing.