The story of a green roof

Reciprocal frame

A simple three stick frame

A reciprocal frame is a class of self-supporting structure made of three or more beams and which requires no center support to create roofs, bridges or similar structures.


A reciprocal roof is assembled by first installing a temporary central support that holds the first rafter at the correct height. The first rafter is fitted between the wall and the temporary central support and then further rafters are added, each resting on the last. The final rafter fits on top of the previous rafter and under the very first one. The rafters are then tied with wire before the temporary support is removed.[1] The failure of a single element may lead to the failure of the whole structure.


The reciprocal frame, also known as a Mandala roof,[2] has been used since the twelfth century in Chinese and Japanese architecture although little or no trace of these ancient methods remain. More recently they were used by Architects Kazuhiro Ishii (the Spinning House) and Yasufumi Kijima, and engineer Yoishi Kan (Kijima Stonemason Museum).[3]

Villard de Honnecourt produced sketches showing similar designs in the 13th century[4] and similar structures were also used in the chapter house of Lincoln Cathedral.[5] Josep Maria Jujol used this structure in both the Casa Bofarull and Casa Negre[6] The reciprocal roof was independently developed by Graham Brown in 1987 and is becoming a popular roof construction technique for the eco self-build community[7] and particularly for modern roundhouses.

The story of a green roof

This is the story of the healing area’s green roof in Tribodar.

Started about 6 months ago, it is a piece of architecture built by hand using materials from the land and from around the area.

The reciprocal structure is made with eucalyptus wood, collected from the eucalyptus monocultures (discussed in a previous post). After flattening the land, concrete and stone bases where made and placed for the wood pillars to sit on.

The roof built up is quite interesting. On top of the eucalyptus structure, bamboo canes are laid and fixed with nails on the beams.

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then cardboard is laid on top to create a smooth surface

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to protect the plastic sheets that are laid on top for waterproofing.

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On top of the plastic sheets, straw bale is placed

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and then distributed evenly.

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On top of the straw bale, there will be laid.. donkey poo!


With 4 donkeys in the land, there is plenty of donkey manure produced in Tribodar and it provides an excellent finish layer for green roofs, allowing for grass to grow in the winter and providing good thermal insulation to the roof.


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