The Digg & Co Studio, with Brimstone cladding and integrated Bat Boxes

3 minutes

This beautiful renovation project is one of a kind. Once an old threshing barn, it has been transformed into a family home, studio and wildlife haven by landscape architect and owner Toby Diggens.

Digg Ash Barn

The house and studio have a style of their own, but the approach to the construction is what makes them truly unique.

Digg and Co’s ‘Ash Barn’ renovation project is the first Living Building Challenge Registered Domestic project in the UK. This means the building had to tie in with the surrounding ecosystem, rather than creating an environmental net loss.

Locally sourced from British woodland

To meet these requirements and his company’s ethos, Toby sourced all of the wood for the internal elements from his local area in Devon. And when it came to the external cladding, he opted for Brimstone.

We talked to him about the project and why he chose our Brimstone Ash.

What did you like about Brimstone ash cladding?

“We try to source as local and as indigenous as possible. Brimstone uses locally sourced ash from the southwest of England, very close to the saw mill which lowers the amount of carbon needed to get it out of the woods and into our building.

We also love the fact that British woods, which are typically seen as non-viable for external use, have gone through this Brimstone process of heat treatment to become hard enough to use externally.”

“Our building feels set into its landscape because it is built of that landscape.”

What is your 'philosophy' on sourcing local and natural materials?

“As a company we wanted to reign in today’s overly globalised system of product delivery. This is because it’s breaking down the local economy, which once supported the woodlands, foresters, craftsmen and timber farmers here.

Today, people can willy-nilly, at the click of a button, buy Siberian larch, which is most likely having some impact on local rare species, including the amur leopard. By supporting local businesses we can help rebuild local economies.

We need to start encouraging people to get back into our woodlands and work them again. By using Brimstone products, we hit that nail on the head and we know that our thoughts are aligned”.

Can you tell us about your bat boxes and how they worked around the cladding?

“Together with Digg & Co’s ecologist, Louis Pearson, and our design team, we looked at how we could integrate bat boxes into the actual building fabric.

With the cladding being vertical, we created an external drip detail to house 10 of the 18 bat species which live in crevices. Behind the cladding, there are specific crawl spaces, offering a dry place for bats to rest. There are smaller holes for one or two bats and bigger holes for little community roosts.

The idea is that as the bats go behind the cladding to the battens, there is a lot of void space. In this space there are cheese-wedge shapes which the bats can crawl into and feel comfortable”.

You talk about 'rethreading’. What do you mean by this – and how does it relate to locally grown wood?

The concept is about rethreading local environments, local ecosystems and local habitats. We are reconnecting them through woodland corridors, further hedging, wild flower meadow restoration and grassland restoration.

That’s ‘physical’ rethreading, then there’s a ‘social’ rereading. Once upon a time, the landscapes all over Britain were full of people who worked and lived in the countryside, looking after the land in a holistic way. Using locally grown wood rethreads that part of ancient culture.

If we’re demanding locally-grown wood as architects and designers, the people who are managing those woodlands can gain a proper income. They can expand their woodland and maybe even rethread one woodland into another as they see an economy growing.”

Thank you to Toby for sharing his knowledge and journey with us. We have loved being a small part of this inspiring project – and hope to see plenty more ‘rethreading’ over the next few years.

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