A tiny cabin built with beetle-infested wood

Design studio HANNAH turned beetle-infested waste wood into a sculptural cabin

By Hugh Metcalf | 17 December 2020

US-based design studio HANNAH found a way to avoid wasting huge quantities of beetle-infested timber from ash trees. The practice built a tiny cabin in upstate New York as a study of the material. It offers a sustainable construction solution.

cabin made from beetle infested wood in new york - self build homes - grand designs

Image: Andy Chen

An invasive Emerald Ash Borer beetle infestation results in timber that is not suitable for processing by timber mills. This is because the logs have an irregular shape. The waste wood is dealt with by being burnt or is left to decompose. Both methods add to the overall carbon footprint of this ash timber.

tiny cabin made from beetle infested wood - self build homes - grand designs

Image: Andy Chen

The practice gave the timber a new purpose with precision 3D scanning and a robotic arm with a bandsaw attachment. ‘It’s a combination of our design research and thinking in response to the urgent condition of our natural environment and possible modes of intervention,’ says Leslie Lok, Hannah’s co-principal.

US-based design studio HANNAH found a way to avoid wasting huge quantities of beetle-infested timber from ash trees. The practice built a tiny cabin in upstate New York as a study of the material. It offers a sustainable construction solution.

cabin made from beetle infested wood in new york - self build homes - grand designs

Image: Andy Chen

An invasive Emerald Ash Borer beetle infestation results in timber that is not suitable for processing by timber mills. This is because the logs have an irregular shape. The waste wood is dealt with by being burnt or is left to decompose. Both methods add to the overall carbon footprint of this ash timber.

tiny cabin made from beetle infested wood - self build homes - grand designs

Image: Andy Chen

The practice gave the timber a new purpose with precision 3D scanning and a robotic arm with a bandsaw attachment. ‘It’s a combination of our design research and thinking in response to the urgent condition of our natural environment and possible modes of intervention,’ says Leslie Lok, Hannah’s co-principal.

Image: Andy Chen

Ashen Cabin is clad in the cut ash wood. The timber retains its wavy lines and warped forms as elements of architectural interest. This is particularly evident around the black-painted plywood windows.
The cabin sits on a base and stilts of 3D printed concrete. It’s a method that removes the need for formwork, which can be wasteful in its use of the material. It also ensures concrete use only where structurally necessary. Reducing the amount of concrete improves its environmental impact, to a degree.

tiny cabin made from beetle infested wood - self build homes - grand designs

Image: Andy Chen

This use of the concrete is imperfect. Creating what the practice describes as ‘tectonic articulations’ in the material, which is also used for the chimney. When the ash weathers, it will grey, matching in with the concrete elements of the cabin.

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