How To Build a Roundhouse - Manual and Courses

The best way of building a roundhouse is in a group, and the best way to learn how to do it is in a group. I used to take on occasional projects to build roundhouses or round low impact buildings for many uses. This involved recruiting a group of volunteers who pay a fairly low amount, on a sliding scale, to learn how to do it. The client gets planning permission, if necessary, and pays a small fee plus supplying the building materials, gathered in the main from local natural sources.

cover by Sarah Latham.


I have written a book 'A Simple Roundhouse Manual' with over a hundred photos from these courses, going through the detail of how to build a simple roundhouse along the lines shown in this website. The book is available on Amazon.

In the US, get it from the Createspace eStore or Amazon for $39.

If you prefer a Kindle version, this is for sale from Amazon at just 4! or the equivalent in your local currency. Go to (or your local Amazon) and search for it under 'A Simple Roundhouse Manual'. If you don't have a Kindle but do have a tablet or similar, there is a free Kindle app available from app stores for you to download onto your device. If you do buy this book and like it, please fill in feedback for Amazon so that others can benefit. I have no idea how properly to advertise it! Thanks.,


I have nearly retired from leading courses, and am handing over to the very able Richard Sylvan, based in Heartwood Co-op, West Wales, and Matthew-Robin White, based in mid France. There will be a build led by Richard in September 3 miles from the West Wales coast this September 2017. Details Here.
Or check out the Facebook group : Heartwood Natural Building.

Here are some pictures from past courses:

June 2012, not far from Carmarthen:

the henge nearly completed at St Mungo's, Bath, Shift Bristol Sustainability course, March 2012

Henge of roundhouse being built in Bath, March 2012.

The Shifty Singers sing in the Bath roundhouse at the end of week 3:

Here is a video from that course showing the making of a reciprocal frame roof.

There were three courses in the first half of 2013. One, in the Forest of Dean, was for two weeks and involved a shelter for children and others in an outdoor centre. It is about five metres across on the inside, has posts placed on stone pads, braced in twos as arches, linked as a henge, with a reciprocal frame roof clad with wooden sawmill slab off cuts, carpet, plastic membrane and turf, with windscreen skylight. This is basically my standard model. The walls are of cobwood using large chunks of felled tree on the site, so we could incorporate a hole in the wall for children to climb through. There are other fun features such as bottles and portholes.

The second was the fire circle near Cardigan. This is a ten- post structure with posts on stones, reciframe roof and turf. The hole is 1.2 m wide at the centre and left open as a smoke hole. the arches are braced by diagonals and by thick planks which serve as seating. There are no walls. The wooden ceiling reflects light and heat well, and also sound, being the shape of a bandstand, so we had a great last evening in there under the stars but warmed by a fine fire.

Here we are - photo by Elena Mia Fortuny:

enjoying the fire circle after a hard week's work

Planit Earth, Cornwall

We had a great time building the roundhouses of cobwood and strawbale at Plan-It Earth. Here are some pics of the cobwood build build:

Here is how the two roundhouses we built there look in 2015/6:

Warning: making spoons can be just as addictive as the internet. Here we all are at the Felinganol Woodland Retreat Centre near Cardigan.

Forest of Dean March - April 2013

Three pics from the two week course in the Forest of Dean. Email me if you want to see more and I'll send you a drop box link. Most of the wood for this came from within 100 metres of the site. Uprights and crosspieces are alder, so a lovely orange colour. The rounds here are mainly of Thuya and are gigantic. It took three people to lift some of them. We had a fabulous team of builders and had a great time building this shelter in the grounds of the Dean Field Studies Centre.


We had an exciting course with the Shift Bristol one year sustainability course in Bristol in Spring 2011, and another in March 2012. The last but one in Wales was the building of a round wooden woodland shelter in Longwood, near Lampeter, Ceredigion, Wales in July 2009.
The weather was so severe that the week amounted to a rite of passage for the twenty or so people who took part, but we made it. Eight nationalities were represented and despite the weather we had a rich time.

Here is a little stop motion film of the building:

Here's a stop motion film of the building of our visitor den in June 2008, that has had over a million hits on YouTube:

Here's a course at Denmark Farm Shared Earth Trust, near Lampeter. This pic shows erecting the posts at the end of the first week, in Feb 2008.

erecting the posts of chestnut, charred at the bottom

And here is the henge at the end of the second week:

 the henge complete at the end of the second week

Here we are at the end of week three, April 4th 2008:

working on hazel radials in the roof Mandy on the radials Charlie fixes dobbins of cleft chestnut around the eaves the first layer of roof covering canvas is on

And at the end of week four:

Walls half built and windows in

On a special roofin day on April 23rd we start turfin:

Everybody's goin turfin'

And here are three pics from the last week, when we (nearly) finished the walls, turfed the roof and had a dance to celebrate.

afternoon ceili to celebrate completion the inside east wall showing two bottle mandalas the nearly finished hut from the south west

Here, after a day finishing off, is the hut with a good head of turf in July 2008:

the finished hut with a good head of new grass

Cobwood course May 2008

We rebuilt our guest hut here as a rural bedsit made of cobwood, and most of the work was done as a course from May 12th -30th 2008. Thanks to all who took part, especially, and in no order:
Lisa,Louise, Beth, Ella, Dave, Josh, Kate, Ed, Niklas, Sky, Georgie, Sage, Hanuman/Mike, Amba, Adrian, Sarah, Faith, Scott, Neil, Ben, Alex, Nils, Jon and Sue. Here we are having just erected the roof members (this is the first cobwood roundhouse I have designed without a wood henge skeleton - we are keeping our fingers crossed that it stays up!):

the group after erecting the roof members Link to video of Charlie stick being removed:

The focus in 2007 was a three part course in Portugal, starting in Feb 2007. We built a multi-purpose roundhouse in this olive grove, using these big eucalypts for the main wood structure.


Here is work in progress in the first week. The roundhouse is in fact oval; about 8m x 9.5m. Quite big.

working eucalyptus cross-pieces for the henge;photo by Vasco

Here is how it looked at the end of the first week:

Roundhouse at end of stage one, with temporary tarpaulins on

And here it is on March 1st with the radials on the roof.

the oval roundhouse with radials on, ready for walls and roof. Photo: Caryn

The working environment was fabulous, the company great, the cooking superb and generous. Here is the ecocasa after stage three. It is a good space for workshops, drumming, dancing and music. We will put a membrane and earth on the roof in the autumn, when the grapes are in and hopefully before the rain comes, in mid Oct.

The fourth part of the course was from October 20th - 27th 2007. Here is a link to the people and place.

ecocasa in its setting with canvas roof

windows of reused double glazing units and cobwood on south face

north curved wall being built of rammed earth blocks made by cinva ram on site

And here is what it looked like after the fourth part, in early November 2007:

ecocasa with succulents planted in soil roof

For more info and details on Cabeca do Mato:

Here are some pics of previous cordwood courses :
The May 2005 course:

raising an oak rafter into position on the henge resting on the rafters - pic Robert Steen setting bottles in the cobwood wall

Here are some pictures of the course in 2003:

heart of wood with bottle surround in finished wall of roundhouse shelter

This course involved a group building a cobwood wildlife shelter at Gelli Deg, off Cwm Cych, for the Clynfyw Countryside Centre.

laying the herring bone slate wall stripping ash rafters knocking the first lintel onto its support pins
<IMG src= a busy scene turfin a mandala in bottles complete, view from N

Here is a cordwood den at Ixuxu, ( Asturias, Northern Spain.

building the north wall and door frame of the guest hut at Ixuxu

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