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Building a Portable Reciprocal Roundhouse Frame

June 2, 2014 | Building, Natural Building, Resources | 7 comments | Author:


On our last Natural Building course, we built a portable reciprocal roundhouse frame. Beauty meets strength meets simplicity.

Using sapling logs (though you can use bamboo instead, or framing timber, at a pinch) plus ropes and screws, this structure went up fast and is a great foundation for all sorts of projects. 


While it’s no secret that we’ve been a bit in love with reciprocal roofs for a few years now, every time we make one of these, I’m excited all over again.

The most exciting thing for me abut this structure is that it’s strong, and it’s easy to make. Ok make that easy, once you know how.

Strength + accessible materials + teachable technique = doable.

And doable is what you want, when you’re trying to figure out how to make a strong roof or walls and you don’t have ready access to all the building resources you could desire.

Currently, these structures are utilised for things like small homes in the hills, temporary structures for situations when you need to get a storm-proof roof up NOW, for festivals, and for outside shade areas.

The best bit is once you know how to make them, you can pack the whole thing down to a pile of logs (or bamboo, or whatever you’ve got to work with) and off you go, with a truck full of shelter.

But back to the build at our last course. We had poles, bolts, a drill and plenty of hands. We were good to go.




























And two hours later, we had ourselves a roundhouse frame.

From here, you could cover the roof (and walls too, if you like) in a canvass for temporary shelter, or proceed to clad it in whatever you prefer.

Is it strong? Yes it is. Look, Nick tested this one as soon as it was built…


Sam Vivers, patient course teacher, and Ashar, pirate hammock-sailor, road testing the roundhouse frame

As usual with these kinds of structures, within 30 minutes of it standing there, it was being occupied. Funny how we humans always seem to gravitate towards structures.

So that’s the short version.

If you rekon you’re up for making one of these with friends, check out Huckleberry’s fine Creating a Portable Roundhouse ebook. It’s a great place to start to get your head around what’s needed.



Or if you’d like to learn how to build one of these in person, you could come along to our Natural Building Course.

This 4 day course is 1/2 theory and 1/2 hands-on learning – it covers reciprocal roofs, roundwood building, rammed earth, light earth, cob, earth floors and strawbale building techniques.

Also have a look at our previous articles on researching and constructing reciprocal roundhouse frames here.

Big thanks on this build to teacher Sam Vivers and the drill-wielding Gordon Williams.

And also thanks to all the students who came along to learn – we hope any roundhouse frames in your futures shelter + contain much goodness…

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  • Alacoque

    So I have neither the land nor the need for a reciprocal roundhouse but gosh these photos make me want to have a crack!

  • Sam

    This a great photo series, shows the process really well. Thanks!

  • CassieOz

    Brilliant. I don’t need one either but the temptation to make one just because you can… I LOVE good functional design and simplicity.

  • naomi

    Can’t see a picture of the final result, the round house finished.

  • naomi

    Building such houses is a great comunity activity, provides good fun and social bonding.
    I will also use the idea to teach children to build it at smaller scale in clasroom.

  • christheforest

    Reblogged this on Forest and Fungi and commented:
    This looks like a good project to try…

  • Mim

    Great resources. Thanks for taking and posting such a good series of pictures. It shows the process well. I’d like to try this one on our “back 40″

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