New design guide to transform Scotland’s approach to affordable housing

An aerial view of the high-performing affordable homes pilot project at Granton
An aerial view of the high-performing affordable homes pilot project at Granton

Engineering academics have developed a new framework to help Scotland’s affordable housing sector reach net zero carbon performance.

Dr Julio Bros-Williamson is the academic lead for the Edinburgh Home Demonstrator (EHD) project, which has developed a standardised approach for local authorities and housing associations to adopt for energy-efficient design and meeting low-carbon performance standards across a range of future housing developments.

The £1m programme involves partners from the City of Edinburgh Council, Offsite Solutions Scotland, the University of Edinburgh, Edinburgh Napier University, Built Environment – Smarter Transformation (BE-ST) and Scottish Futures Trust.

Design guide

The project has created a framework for efficient design that can be adopted to deliver different housing types, such as flats, houses and cottage flats. The guide provides recommendations combining fabric-first energy efficient standards, renewable energy technology, and modern methods of construction using timber offsite manufacturing.

While the guide recommends common parts – including floorplans and electrical heating systems – elements such as the external materials and appearance of homes can be customised to ensure buildings are designed in keeping with local surroundings.

Granton pilot

This new approach for high-performing affordable homes is being tested out with a pilot project in Granton, including the creation of 75 net zero carbon-ready one, two and three-bed flats. The flats are being constructed by offsite construction specialists, CCG (Scotland), and are funded by the Scottish Government’s Affordable Housing Supply Programme and the City of Edinburgh Council.

The first homes designed using the performance standards are expected to be completed in the summer of 2023 and once occupied, will be monitored to measure the building performance and the effectiveness of the low-carbon energy systems and help inform future housing projects.

With the new design and performance standards, the programme also hopes to shape new build developments across the Edinburgh and South East Scotland City Region Deal, providing a route map to net zero carbon homes that use offsite manufacturing.

Net zero goals

Dr Julio Bros-Williamson said:

"As academic lead of the EHD project, I am very excited to develop future housing designs that are net zero carbon ready and I believe this project takes us closer to that.”

“The project will apply many of the work developed over the past few years in a 75-unit pilot study in Granton, Edinburgh, where we will conduct post-occupancy and building envelope performance evaluations to a sample of those dwellings.”

Ainslie McLaughin, chair of the Edinburgh Home Demonstrator Programme Project Board, said:

“Our ambition is to reduce the carbon footprint of the housing sector by designing new homes that ultimately consume less energy.

“Affordable housing plays a significant role among many communities and we want to create homes that are better suited for future generations. The flats we are delivering in Granton will be highly energy efficient and will also encourage residents to make low carbon lifestyle choices in relation to services like transport and travel.

“A key output of the pilot project is the evidence we will collect on the performance of the homes. Not only will it inform the next stages of building work here in Edinburgh and the City Deal but it could also influence future designs and procurement practices across all of Scotland’s affordable housing.”

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