The IMBY (In My Back Yard) Kit is a clever initiative by a team of architects led by Adriano Pupilli, conceptualised with the objective of making architect-designed modular buildings accessible to the wider public.

It was a challenging task for the team of architects when they set out to create the modular building system. The solution needed to be aesthetically pleasing and flexible in design; Pupilli explained that the system needed to have the flexibility to be added to, subtracted from, reconfigured, clad in different ways, placed side by side and also packed away and transported elsewhere, if required. Being sensitive to the environment and friendly to the pocket were also top priorities.

Visual appeal was important because the modular building would sit in a garden or a small urban backyard. The structure also needed to be multipurpose, waterproof and naturally lit. The design had to meet State Planning legislation for Exempt Development; the system also needed to be efficient to transport, easy to assemble and economical to build, in terms of both cost and use of materials.

All of these requirements were considered by the team of architects as they conceptualised the perfect modular building system. The IMBY (In My Back Yard) Kit was the outcome – a highly flexible modular building solution in the form of a beautiful, light-filled structure made from plywood panels with the design inspired by ancient woodworking techniques. The structural plywood workings of the system are exposed to form part of the interior aesthetic.

“The tusk-tenon joint, an ancient way of making ‘knockdown’ furniture and decorative architectural connections, is used exclusively throughout to connect horizontal and vertical structural members. It is user-friendly and no nails, glues or adhesives are needed when assembling the plywood frame. Best of all, it can be knocked down just as easily and flat packed for transport or storage,” explains Pupilli.

IMBY combines ancient timber joining techniques with computer controlled cutting of Ecoply plywood panels to provide the best of both worlds: the simplicity of expressed timber friction joints with the accuracy and strength of contemporary fabrication methods and materials.

Ecoply was the logical choice for IMBY, not only for its functional advantages but also its green credentials. According to Pupilli, Ecoply is strong, versatile and easy to work with, and its thickness is consistent and suitable for CNC milling, ensuring all parts are structurally sound. The locally harvested product keeps the carbon miles down, and the plywood’s FSC certification guarantees that the timber is sourced from sustainably managed forests.

“When we went through the process of designing each part and how they might ‘nest’ on a standard 1200 x 2400 mm sheet of plywood, we worked painstakingly to ensure we had minimal wastage of material. This was in line with our design objective to develop a carbon neutral building kit,” said Pupilli.

“I believe architects have a responsibility to not only provide for the client's wish lists, but to do so in a way that does not burden the planet. We have the tools and skill set to demonstrate how smaller, well-built and considered spaces can provide happier, healthier and inspirational environments for people. Our job is to demonstrate this daily with every design challenge we face,” he added.

Photographer: Adriano Pupilli