The Bath Street Collective Custom Build (BSCCB) in Portobello, Edinburgh has completed the apartment shells and first fix, moving into the final stages of work. Designed by John Kinsley Architects, the scheme is a collective build for four separate families on an urban infill site.
The design is modern interpretation of the traditional Edinburgh tenement block, with the internal volume divided to reflect individual purchaser’s requirements and budgets.
The purchasers, exisiting Portobello residents, have had a free hand in the finish and layout of their homes, working collaboratively with the practice.
The building uses a shell and core model, paired with Cross Laminated Timber. CLT removes the need for structural walls between the external walls and the core, housing the stairs.
Sustainability is key to the project, and an important aspect of complying with the lending requirements of the Ecology Building Society, which provided the mortgages. Consequently the build is being constructed to Passivhaus equivalent levels of energy usage, although it will not be certified. This renders central heating unnecessary, while photovoltaic panels will provide renewable energy.
To manage the process, the group set up Bath Street Collective Custom Build as a devco, with each participant owning an equal share. A single entity was necessary to enable them to access funding, with the intention that residents will buy their home from the company on completion, which will then be folded.
Local firm HM Rait is undertaking the build work, with owners having had the option of personally taking on elements of the fit out or contracting with the builder independently.
Architect John Kinsley, one of the future residents, commented on the challenges of bringing on collective custom builds:
“Land acquisition is, as everyone knows, the key. Councils can play a key role in offering land to self build groups at an agreed fixed price – as I understand happens in some of the German regions where baugruppe is popular. I think one or two enlightened councils have dipped their toes in the water in England but in nothing like the scale.
“Anyone planning a group build needs to be prepared to persuade councils of the long term advantages of enabling neighbourhoods in which building groups have invested not just financially, but physically and emotionally, too.
“For groups, the advantages are financial in being able to purchase at cost without a developer’s mark up, but also being able to have a bespoke build and not least, getting to know your neighbours and forming a strong community through the build process.
“Increasingly young people who have been priced out of the conventional housing market are interested in alternative routes, and have the creativity and energy to make collective custom build successful.”
Group custom builds are tricky to pull off – the time line can be considerable and commitment is vital, but community is guaranteed. Bath Street Collective is a first for Scotland, and will be an incredible example of what can be achieved by working collectively. Beyond the savings/upgrade that can be achieved by avoiding a developer’s mark-up, it offers a solution for infill and windfall sites that truly brings diversifity to local housing. Take a look at OWCH’s achievements in London, an alternative take on a collective group custom build.