Low-impact roundhouses bring sustainability home

| August 5, 2014

In 2004, Tony Wrench was nearly forced to demolish his home because the design made municipality planners nervous. Today, his home’s unique design is so compelling that Wrench has published a home building book so others can follow in his footsteps.

What makes Wrench’s home design so special—and controversial? It’s known as “That Roundhouse” and it’s more than a little bit reminiscent of the houses made famous by the hobbits of the Lord of the Rings trilogy. The home gives the impression of being built right into the landscape, with a low profile, a roof covered with straw and turf, and a frame made of Douglas fir.


That Roundhouse, from

Wrench created every element of the home with sustainability in mind. In a feature in the UK newspaper The Telegraph, Wrench describes his home as: “an eco home of wood frame, cob wood and recycled windows…solar power, compost toilet and reed beds for grey water.”

That Roundhouse is located near Newport in Wales, and local authorities weren’t exactly bowled over by the home when it was first constructed in early 1998. Wrench admits that he did not seek planning permission, and his retroactive application was initially denied.

Wrench was instructed to demolish the home in 2004, but by that point, That Roundhouse had attracted quite a following. The public rallied in Wrench’s favor, and their outcry created enough pressure to postpone the demolition.

Since then, increasingly widespread interest in eco-friendly, sustainable housing changed the tide, and Wrench has gone from a housing planning pariah to a housing-planning guru. His book, aptly titled: “Building a Low Impact Roundhouse” is available now.

The book shares tips and tricks he has learned as the builder and owner of this unique style of property. Wrench says his home cost only 3,000 British Pounds (approximately $5,000) to make. It also took around 1,500 man hours. The Telegraph piece suggests that 1,500 man hours is significant, but we’re here to tell you that it’s paltry compared to the building time involved in construction of a traditional home.

And, of course, the fact that the home is so environmentally friendly? Priceless indeed.

Unfortunately, in spite of growing support for sustainable housing, not everyone is on board. Another recent Telegraph feature highlights the plight of a young family in the Pembrokeshire hills who will have to demolish their hobbit-style house because it reportedly clashes with the rest of the architecture in the countryside. Once again, the public has rallied to support the family and their house, but it looks like this time, aesthetics are going to win out over sustainability. Perhaps the Pembrokeshire community planners need to read Wrench’s book?

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Category: Conservation

About the Author ()

Ellen Hunter Gans has been writing for RecycleReminders since the blog’s inception. She is passionate about words, new media and, of course, recycling.

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