Andrew Doolan Award for Best Building in Scotland 2018 Shortlisted

RIAS Award 2018

Saltire Housing Innovation Award Winner 2018

Scottish Design Awards Residential Project Award 2018

Wood for Good/Forestry Commission Scotland Award for the Best Use of Timber 2018

Winner of the Edinburgh Architectural Association Wood Award 2018

‘the future of Scottish home building’ Homes and Interiors Scotland February 2018

‘ a beacon of light’ Urban Realm magazine Winter 2017/18


The client is a group of four separate families who have come together to purchase the site and build a small tenement block that will contain a bespoke flat for each owner. They are excited by the prospect of being able to build their own place to live and are inspired by the idea of a bespoke high quality building with exemplary environmental credentials. Working together like this, without the involvement of a conventional developer or housebuilder in what we call a Collective Custom Build offers a number of advantages over a conventional procurement route:-


  • The families are involved right at the start of the process and can have a bespoke home uniquely designed to meet their own individual needs.
  • All participants wanted to make the project low energy to minimise ongoing costs and reduce the use of natural resources, with sustainable, natural materials for low maintenance.
  • Working as part of a group the participants have shared both the successes and difficulties of the project, and got to know each other as future neighbours before actually moving in.
  • Most importantly, all of this has been provided more economically than with a conventional ‘mass housebuilder’ model because the housebuilder’s profit is removed from the equation; each home is purchased at cost.


One in ten new homes built in Berlin are procured this way; in the last five years hundreds of schemes have been built there providing thousands of new homes. Our pioneering project in Bath Street, Portobello has shown that it can work just as well here in Scotland.


Three of the four families involved are current Portobello residents and feel strongly about the building contributing to the local sense of place in Bath Street. The format of the building follows the traditional Scottish tenement model, with a central shared  stair providing access to the flats and also to a shared garden on the roof. The building is carefully integrated into the street by stepping the façade in both section (to address the change in scale from the four storey Victorian tenement to the right hand side of the site to the two and a half storey Georgian house to the left) and plan (a 600mm change in plane of the two buildings on either side allows the introduction of a continuous three storey bay window which provides views up Bath Street towards Arthur’s Seat and reflects the verticality of the adjoining tenement). A contextual approach also informs the selection of materials, with the main facade being predominantly red sandstone (used as a rain screen to reflect the nature of the building structure) and Reglit cast glass, which references the historical industry of Portobello and provides a durable and visually lightweight material which ‘reads’ correctly above the open pend to the rear garden below. Upper level and rear facades are formed in dark grey zinc cladding to reference adjacent slate roofs.


A ‘shell and core’ approach to the build has been adopted, which has enabled individual owners to take on varying degrees of fit out in their own flats, thus further reducing build costs.


A high level of sustainability is a key driver. The scheme is designed to Passivhaus equivalent levels of energy use and uses a Cross Laminated Timber structural frame to deliver exemplary levels of embodied energy. The growth of timber for the frame absorbed 114 tonnes of carbon emissions – an average UK resident’s emissions for approximately 12 years. High levels of insulation render a central heating system unnecessary and all remaining electricity will either be generated via photovoltaic panels on site or procured from 100% renewable energy – the building will be completely fossil fuel free.