How will Scotland’s homes of the future look?

The ZEB pilot house in Larvik, Norway is an "out of the ordinary" family home which trailblazes energy efficiency through design, technology and architecture. It generates enough energy surplus in a year to power an electric car all-year round.
The ZEB pilot house in Larvik, Norway is an "out of the ordinary" family home which trailblazes energy efficiency through design, technology and architecture. It generates enough energy surplus in a year to power an electric car all-year round.
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From homes which don’t need heating to new houses being delivered by helicopter, there is a quiet revolution going on in the making of Scotland’s homes of the future.

A growing demand for low-cost low-energy housing of smart design is driving fresh innovation in housebuilding with a new generation of properties being created.

New recording studio (left) for musician Edwyn Collins plus guest accomodation at Helmsdale. Designed and built by Carbon Dynamic of Invergordon.

New recording studio (left) for musician Edwyn Collins plus guest accomodation at Helmsdale. Designed and built by Carbon Dynamic of Invergordon.

They are more likely to be built in a factory than on a construction site and made from wood rather than bricks and mortar. They may well be insulated with materials such as hemp and sheep wool.

Crucially, the properties can be built regardless of the Scottish weather and ready on site within a matter of weeks as opposed to months.

And with Scotland having some of the highest standards in Europe when it comes to both social housing and energy efficiency, people of all backgrounds and means are being afforded some of the best bespoke housing on offer.

Neil Baxter of the Royal Incorporation of Architects in Scotland (RIAS) said consumer demand had changed “immensely” over the past few years.

There is certainly no shortage of smart thinking and innovation. There is momentum and there is confidence.

Gordon Campbell, director of Tigh Grian house building company

He added: “The architectural profession is constantly coming up with new ideas. Many are about reducing cost and quite often bespoke homes are being produced at very modest cost.

“These housing solutions are very often very focused on efficiency and the quality of the experience. The better the environment, the better your life will be.

“The bespoke house isn’t necessarily the recourse of the super rich anymore.”

READ MORE: What to expect from Scotland’s Year of Innovation, Architecture and Design

A demonstration house built by Edinburgh-based firm Tigh Grian in conjunction with energy efficiency experts Userhuus.

A demonstration house built by Edinburgh-based firm Tigh Grian in conjunction with energy efficiency experts Userhuus.

Gordon Campbell, is a director of Tigh Grian - Gaelic for House of Sun - a building firm which is constructing 48 new “pod” homes in Alva, Clackmannanshire for Link Housing Association,

The houses are being built in a factory in Wales which resembles an “aircraft hanger”, he said.

Mr Campbell said: “Once completed, they will simply be put on the back of a lorry and transported to Alva, where they will be clipped on the foundations.

He said the aim was to cut down on construction costs and have builders on site for the least amount of time as possible which also reduce safety risks.

A 13-pod extension at Kingsmill Hotel in Inverness, built by Carbon Dynamic

A 13-pod extension at Kingsmill Hotel in Inverness, built by Carbon Dynamic

Each two-bedroom house - made up of two pods stacked on top of each other - will take between six to 10 hours to complete on site.

Mr Campbell said the units would typically be clad in Scottish larch or aluminium but that some clients still wanted traditional finishes, such at bricks.

However, he said this ultimately defeated the purpose of having the low-cost, quick house building solutions.

Mr Campbell added: “I remember being at a conference 20 years ago and we were watching these housing being built in Scandinavia. Everyone was looking at each other saying ‘they are shoeboxes’ and ‘it will never happen here’. Well, the point is, it is happening here.”

Mr Campbell said the new housing at Alva technically didn’t require heating given that it was completely airtight and complimented by a mechanical ventilation system.

It is expected that the homes can be heated for around £120 a year.

He added: “We still have electric back up systems but the biggest challenge is to educate tenants not to switch it on, We have actually considered putting in fake fires so people can truly believe it is warm.”

Mr Campbell said further innovation was to come in energy efficiency, such as capturing heat from televisions and other electric devices and storing it in a battery.

He added: “The next house we build will be totally off grid. They don’t have to be on the grid right now but people are still a bit cautious.”

He said that homes created by companies such as Tigh Grian were eroding the notion that homes defined social status.

“The fact that people on really low incomes can have 24 hour hot water, 365 days a year, in a lovely house that is triple glazed, just really excites me,” he said.

“There is certainly no shortage of smart thinking and innovation. There is momentum and there is confidence.

“The standard of affordable housing now is superb and in Scotland we have the highest standard of social housing in Europe.”

Projects such as the Plus House Larvik in Norway is considered to lead the way in energy efficient, quality design. Through its architecture and hi-tech specifications, it meets the living and energy needs of a family house while retaining enough surplus energy to power an electric car year-round.

The house, with a sloping roof, tilts to the south east to maximise solar energy collection with geothermal energy drawn from wells in the ground. While ground breaking in may ways, the designers say it was just as important to create a snug home.

Katherine Hayes, of Carbon Dynamic in Ross and Cromarty, agreed that Scotland was still “very conservative” when it came to the homes that people wanted - but that the mood was changing.

The firm specialises in off-site modular buildings which are constructed at its factory near Invergordon.

It largely uses cross laminated timber (CLT) for its properties, which is made of multiple layers of softwood placed at angles over each other to create an ultra-strong material. Woodfibre board is used to insulate but hemp and sheep wool are also options. Its building are typically clad in Scottish larch.

Recent projects include Edwyn Collin’s new recording studio at Helmsdale, extension to Kingsmill Hotel in Inverness, eco lodges at Findhorn Sands in Moray and a fishing lodge delivered by helicopter to a hard-to-reach location at Gobernuisgach Estate in Lairg.

Ms Hayes said: “I think in terms of Scottish homes we’re still very conservative.

“There’s a certain look people have when they come back into our office from a tour of the factory. They’re often stunned by what they’ve seen; they often have no idea of what is possible to produce in a factory - the quality of the manufacture, the sustainability of the materials we use, the beauty of our buildings and the crispness of the finish, both internally and externally.

“Our buildings are not what you think of when you imagine a home that was produced in a factory.”

Looking to the future, Ms Hayes predicted an increased demand for homes that meet the needs of the ageing population.

This could be a “granny pod” style of home that could be craned into place in a garden to allow an older person to live independently, but close to relatives.

The firm is also working with a housing association, the NHS and a hospice to manufacture “highly innovative” sheltered accommodation that can change and adapt as residents age and their health declines.

The aim, Ms Hayes said, was to allow someone to stay in their own homes without the need to move into residential care or hospital.

With such innovation and forward thinking on show, it would appear the future is certainly bright for Scotland’s homes of the future - and all those who live in them.