Cork Stair at The Building Centre

Tags: arts and culture, timber, stairs

  • Client: The Built Environment Trust, Amorim
  • Architect: Roz Barr Architects, TinTab
  • Photography: Neil Kenyon
  • Completion: 2020
  • Expertise: Structures
Cork Stair at The Building Centre - Webb Yates Engineers
Cork Stair at The Building Centre - Webb Yates Engineers
Cork Stair at The Building Centre - Webb Yates Engineers

The Building Centre was founded in 1932 by Frank Yerbury as a place to celebrate the built environment. The Centre showcases cutting-edge architecture, engineering and construction through exhibitions and an extensive product library. We were appointed to provide the structural design for a world-first staircase made of cork, as part of a wider refurbishment project by Roz Barr Architects.

The new stair was commissioned by The Built Environment Trust, with funding by cork specialist Amorim, and sits at the centre of a new gallery for showcasing innovation in the built environment.  The idea for the stair was borne out of using a building material that symbolised a sustainable and innovative approach that could be used in an inventive way to demonstrate its attributes. Solid cork blocks, rejected by the cork stopper industry and rescued for this project, were selected for their truly circular and carbon neutral properties, with the goal of highlighting this underused building material. 

Working with designers Roz Barr and TinTab, we developed a system to allow a standard cork block of 90cm x 70cm x 20cm could be used to create this self-supporting staircase. Our engineering allowed for the sections to be glued and pegged using timber dowels and intersecting treads to ensure there was little waste from a standard block. Large format components were intentionally used to allow the material to be recycled and reused at the structure’s end-of-life, with the cork able to be cut up and reapplied to smaller applications. 

Cork is a renewable resource which can be harvested without felling or impacting the tree. This ensures a sustainable supply chain while preserving the ecological balance of ecosystems. By utilising solid cork blocks, the project minimises waste and maximises the material's potential. In addition to its renewable nature, cork possesses impressive carbon-neutral properties. Its unique cellular structure allows it to sequester carbon dioxide, contributing to the reduction of greenhouse gas emissions. By incorporating cork into the staircase design, the project actively promotes carbon sequestration, thereby mitigating the environmental impact associated with traditional building materials.

The project embodies circular economy principles. By embracing sustainable materials and innovative design, the project showcases how a circular approach can be integrated into the built environment.


  1. Wood Awards 2023, shortlisted, 9 2023
  2. Structural Timber Awards 2023, Project of the Year, shortlisted, 8 2023