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Fraser voted People’s Expo favourite

September 14 2010

Fraser voted People’s Expo favourite
Malcolm Fraser Architects house design for Scotland’s Housing Expo has been voted the ‘people’s favourite home’ by visitors who attended last months showcase.

The three bedroom home employs a highly insulated ‘breathing’ envelope using recycled or natural materials from sustainable sources. Constructed of a timber frame structure with Scottish larch cladding and zinc roofing the property has a predicted annual running cost of just £274.

Speaking of the win Malcolm Fraser said: “We are delighted to receive this vote. We had tried to build something familiar to the house-buying public, and to our house builders that pushes forward simple, sustainable design. We are very happy that the public seem to agree.

“Looking round the site, it’s interesting to learn from the other house designs.  We’d like to think that we could do even better the next time. We would love to hear from any house builders, or budding house builders out there, who would like to try building with us.”]

The Highland Housing Alliance announced the result as they begin to market 24 of the 52 homes on site for private sale at prices ranging from £230k to £350k.


T Green
#1 Posted by T Green on 14 Sep 2010 at 14:47 PM
Well done Malcolm. Certainly one of the better designs at the Expo and without the technical over-complication of many.
#2 Posted by wang on 14 Sep 2010 at 16:00 PM
seriously? was it developers or actual people doing the voting...
#3 Posted by jt on 14 Sep 2010 at 18:13 PM
mmmm true, it does seem a bit bizarre.......
#4 Posted by Davina on 14 Sep 2010 at 18:14 PM
The public vote for 'favourite' homes ended with first place Malcolm Fraser Architects House NS, plot 27.

Second was HLM Architects, The Passive House plot 11.

Third was Rural Design Secret Garden plot 17.
#5 Posted by jt on 14 Sep 2010 at 18:28 PM
More weird than bizarre then, I suppose. The interiors were frankly awful
T Green
#6 Posted by T Green on 14 Sep 2010 at 18:39 PM
The spitefest begins I see. Well done Malcolm. A richly deserved public vote of confidence for Malcolm Fraser Architects to add to the RIBA Award for Dovecot Studios Edinburgh and the Architecture Grand Prix and Best Public Building for Scottish Ballet Glasgow in the Scottish Design Awards. Hard work rewarded.
#7 Posted by Yuk! on 14 Sep 2010 at 19:22 PM

interior here, judge for yourself then pass the sick bag.
Beccy J
#8 Posted by Beccy J on 14 Sep 2010 at 19:37 PM
I thought the Malcolm Fraser three houses simple but well designed homes, and much better housing than most of those greyish boxes surrounding the housing fair. I'd certainly live in one. It's to be hoped Tulloch Homes seriously consider building more like these.
#9 Posted by DFS on 14 Sep 2010 at 20:15 PM
Does anyone not buy a house because the owner has furniture in it you don't like? Now that would be weird.
William K
#10 Posted by William K on 14 Sep 2010 at 20:29 PM
I agree T Green, now that Richard Murphy is past it Malcolm Fraser is the true voice of architecture in Edinburgh and that is a fact!!!!!
#11 Posted by wang on 14 Sep 2010 at 23:22 PM
imho, I just thought the malcolm fraser one was lacking any ambition, i'm surprised that out of all the units on show the public would pick a dressed up-developers-standard housetype, or maybe i missed the point in having an expo at all.
I'm not debating Malcolm Fraser as an individual or as a practice, just this specific project - many other houses tried to show an alternative to the bog standard developer led noddy box, but this just seemed to be a nicely finished wimpey!
Tom T
#12 Posted by Tom T on 14 Sep 2010 at 23:32 PM
looks like malc has been cribbing his mrs's !! Honestly if Tulloch stick some concrete tiles on the roof and render on the walls it would not look out of place in Cumbernauld.
#13 Posted by brian on 15 Sep 2010 at 00:03 AM
Awful interiors right enough, JT.
#14 Posted by Vag on 15 Sep 2010 at 08:58 AM
Voting was a bit dodgy, you could vote as many times as you like. Perhaps we should check Malcolm for RSI.
#15 Posted by Mac on 15 Sep 2010 at 10:09 AM
According to another report on another website, Susan Torrance, Chief Executive of the Highland Housing Alliance said “I am delighted Plot 27 has received the public vote – it is a good example of a house design which has bridged the gap between what the house builders and public are used to as a standard product and what could be achieved with a bit of thought on good design and a focus on sustainability.”

Aye, the spiteful numpties are out in force, T Green, success isn't celebrated in Scotland is it? I wonder how many of the 'ambitious' houses will have any lasting and wider influence on housebuilders and the housebuying public. Maybe I missed the point too, but many folk I spoke to on my visit were gawping and then quietly tutting about how impractical most of the houses were. There were some shockers.

Perhaps the general public could see what was going to be able to be most easily lived in by families, which too many of the houses weren't.

As for concrete tiles and render, if Tullochs can start thinking beyond that to more sustainable materials in their house building then it's a beginning.
#16 Posted by wang on 15 Sep 2010 at 11:56 AM
I agree that some of the houses on show were far from practical (some complete shockers!), but do you think people were drawn to vote for frasers as it was probably the most like current housing, therefore easier for people to imagine living in?
I don't see a big difference in what was done (by fraser) at the drum in 2004 and what is here, apart from the timber cladding and the plot as a whole seem better considered at the drum (although maybe unfair to judge given how complete the site at inverness is)
#17 Posted by Mac on 15 Sep 2010 at 12:45 PM
Perhaps there's a reason most normal unarchitecty people without bottomless bank balances want to live in something tried and tested.

When I visited comments made (from general public, as well as visiting architects and housing association visitors seeking information on what could be copied in other areas) included the smallness of too many houses, upstairs living wasn't popular when there was a choice, huge double height spaces were seen as wasteful, over complication of some of the heating and heat recovery systems which could be difficult to get serviced in remote areas and took up a great deal of space, and possibly would add too much to build costs, the over-abundance of glass which would require expensive amount of curtains in order to make houses feel homely and private, incredibly impractical layouts, open plan kitchens which didn't seem to be popular, poky badly lit kitchens which were lacking in sensible amounts of work surface and space to put even basic equipment let alone do laundry and eat in; a whole list of things (I could go on) which made me wonder if those who had designed some of these had families and lived normal lives where people needed their own space as well as sufficient communal space to gather family and friends together.

Unpainted larch cladding and zinc are both sensible, longlasting and very sustainable materials with which to build. They look good in rural and urban settings. Flat roofs, valley gutters, odd shapes, untested materials, fast growing ivy all make for problems in future. Keeping things simple and easy to build and maintain is wise, both for the rental sector as well as the private.

If this Expo is to have any wider influence on the current state of mass housebuilding in this country (and isn't what this was supposed to be about really?) then simple is surely better than over designed and over complex.

Possibly too many tried too hard to be 'ambitious'; there were some real failures. There is bravery and wisdom in a major practice not trying too hard to be 'different' but trying to have some influence where it can make a difference. Possbly Fraser's practice felt that was more important than trying to show off.
Alan Dunlop
#18 Posted by Alan Dunlop on 15 Sep 2010 at 13:18 PM
Interesting debate concerning the purpose of initiatives like this expo. I did not go so my comments could be completely wrong, which is not unusual. So for what it's worth I'd add that Malcolm Fraser's house looks like a well designed improvement on a "standard" house type. Judging by his comments, that sounds like just what he was aiming for. Improving public perception of what a house could be bit by bit, making things better without scaring off the developers. The images I have seen of the interiors does make it look as though it was fitted out at Homebase but I have been told that he was not responsible for that so can't really be held accountable.

If the Expo was intended to showcase innovation then for me the two most interesting projects were by Nord and JM Architects, but the Nord one seems to have been lamblasted, even by fellow architects, I think because of poor workmanship? It would not be a surprise to me if these were the least liked by the public because that is the nature of all new things. Innovation in architecture is often measured by how much the "public" hates it.

I would aslo agree that judging by the images at least, there were some shockers which were neither innovative nor an improvement on the standard of developer housing, so what was the point?
Alan Dunlop
#19 Posted by Alan Dunlop on 15 Sep 2010 at 13:33 PM
ok, lambaseted not lamblasted, I know, I know?
#20 Posted by wang on 15 Sep 2010 at 13:38 PM
"without bottomless bank balances" - was each plot not given a budget for this?
the point of the so called complicated heating systems (and almost every building there) is that the lifetime cost of the equipment rather than the upfront purchase is the consideration...
I'm not saying that this was the worst house there, and to be honest i didn't think the upstairs room sizes were anything different to 90% of the houses on site, i just didn't think it showed me anything new or even prompted any discussion.
(on an aside, i don't think untreated larch is sensible or long lasting in an urban environment see tower464 on pollockshaws road for ref.)
#21 Posted by wang on 15 Sep 2010 at 13:46 PM
haha, i thought the nord one was possibly the biggest dissapointment, kitchen and dining room on a different level(?!) and a nice big roof terrace where you could look directly into your neighbours house... very practical
#22 Posted by Mac on 15 Sep 2010 at 13:50 PM
Yes, I think that's right about the Fraser one; I have no doubt the practice could have produced something one off and 'ambitious' but choose not to. Has done it before, no doubt for a private client will do again in future, but took the opportunity to try to have some wider influence on the housing market. Certainly all three houses were very decent, one showed a variation of the interior with an extra room rather than a (small) double height space. Thoughtful homes designed for family life.

The NORD one (only one was accessible, the end of the terrace) had real problems with interior layout, some design elements, and practicality; the stonework was beautiful, but the black larch at the back far less so. JM Corner House also; some attractive ideas, externally interesting, but try bathing children in a wedge shaped bathroom with bath only accessible from the narrow end, for example.

I don't think it was anything connected with 'new' design or the rushed finishes., which all suffered from.

I think most people want 'a machine for living' suitable for the mundanities as well as the high points of a busy day to day life. I went with high expectations and came away feeling despondent. My sympathies go to those in the 'affordable' rented sector in particular. A few of the houses were decent enough, showed thought and care, several very bad, and all far too small.

It will be interesting to return in say, ten years, and see if the claims re heating costs have borne up, what is looking shabby and proving impractical and expensive to maintain, and even outdated before the outlay recouped.
Tom T
#23 Posted by Tom T on 15 Sep 2010 at 13:53 PM
I'm disappointed that Dulchas did not get shortlisted for this competition. These guys would have licked the lot.
#24 Posted by Mac on 15 Sep 2010 at 13:58 PM
I didn't want to go into too many specifics as yes, it becomes a spitefest as stated above, but the NORD house was strangely set out with dining room upstairs, I recall a bathroom/ lavatory leading directly off that (not a lone example of that, and you really hope the soundproofing is good) and also no doors on upstairs rooms. One room had strangly shaped ceilings which you either love or hate, I suppose. People were wandering around looking puzzled.

If you fall in love with a house you will put up with all sorts of odd things, but in general, most people don't have a great choice as budgets are limited and want practicality and ease of use I suspect.
#25 Posted by Mac on 15 Sep 2010 at 14:10 PM
Or even lambasted?

It wasn't basic untreated larch, I believe it was Scotlarch which is, I understand, longer lasting. Additionally, as it was screwed with ss screws it could be easily replaced in future if needed.

I do wonder, though, if the stained and painted timber buildings will weather well, especially in Inverness.
Alan Dunlop
#26 Posted by Alan Dunlop on 15 Sep 2010 at 14:19 PM
nope, definately lambaseted.
#27 Posted by Mac on 15 Sep 2010 at 14:29 PM
Fair enough, whatever, though lambasted is the more usual spelling. D-E-F-I-N-I-T-E-L-Y the case.

Now, back to houses?
Alan Dunlop
#28 Posted by Alan Dunlop on 15 Sep 2010 at 14:33 PM
The only other thing I would add is the idea that some of the comments on here are spiteful, I don't think so at all, they seem pretty relevant to the issue. The interiors do look very poor in the images I have seen and wang's comment is fair too.
Alan Dunlop
#29 Posted by Alan Dunlop on 15 Sep 2010 at 14:35 PM
Oh, and Mac, L-I-G-H-T-E-N U-P.
#30 Posted by Mac on 15 Sep 2010 at 14:55 PM
I was being L-I-G-H-T. Possibly this message board needs smileys to denote tongue in cheek.

As I stated, I didn't want to get into too much of a spitefest and start picking out individual flaws. It was interesting to visit, for any number of reasons, although if it's all to be repeated I hope not in the same format.

I've not been inside the Drum houses, wang, are they internally the same as here?
#31 Posted by wang on 15 Sep 2010 at 15:28 PM
the internal layout is slightly different in the drum houses (although i was only in two houses, not sure if there were more variations), in that the primary entrance is on the gabled sides of the houses, and the service accomodation is mainly on the street facing side of the building, allowing the living room and bedrooms to look into the walled private garden (which the one in inverness does a bit) - however the intent seems to be the same, take a standard developers house and move it slightly forward in terms of aesthetics, if anything the drum house (built by a developer for speculative housing to make money rather than for a housing fair) probably did more to develop the standard housetype than the new one, it seems that in the 6 years since this was done no developer has really taken any lessons from it, so why is the expo any different?
Moreover, if the expo isn't the time to explore and develop new ideas when is this time?
not spiteful at all, certainly none intended, we are brought up in a culture of critique so why should we only have back slapping on this site? If someone from nord pinned that up in an office meeting i'm 100% convinced those issues would have been brought up...
#32 Posted by Mac on 15 Sep 2010 at 15:43 PM
The Drum houses didn't have sustainable zinc and larch and natural insulation did they? I reacall slate and render. Perhaps that's moving things along in the mass market, one step at a time. Developers might bite, they might not.

I didn't say it was spiteful, I was trying to avoid a public decline into that. We seem to be rising above the level of 'pass the sick bag' and worse, thankfully.

Perhaps the public in general enjoyed the day out, but was in the end swayed by considerations of practicality.
#33 Posted by Mac on 15 Sep 2010 at 16:00 PM
And yes, mea culpa, R-E-C-A-L-L !
Alan Dunlop
#34 Posted by Alan Dunlop on 15 Sep 2010 at 16:31 PM
richard heggie
#35 Posted by richard heggie on 15 Sep 2010 at 16:47 PM
Good to see some real discussion on a topic for a change. For me, the real success in the Expo is in getting people talking about design, whether professionals or the public. In fact, there seemed to be a fair amount of discussion between the two on site. It was interesting that so many members of the public had the same impressions as so many architects, although unfortunately there were too many expressions of disappointment, particularly with the interiors.
I'd have liked more debate on the 'place making' ambition and the choice of site.
Any other views on why so many of the houses failed to combine a successful exterior with a floor plan that works?
#36 Posted by Mac on 15 Sep 2010 at 21:13 PM
I wonder if those being critical of choice of kitchen units, which could be easily altered, and surely aren't what sensible people considered when voting for a 'favourite', have looked further at the 'breathing' sustainable envelope of the Fraser houses and considered if that is something technically interesting, based perhaps on traditional buildings and the way they work and investigated further? Have looked at zinc (used in several of the houses, not only the Fraser ones I recall) and its credentials as a long lasting 'sustainable' roofing and walling material? Far better than concrete tiles.

Or have considered that 'house shaped houses' may in the long term be traditionally that shape as indeed they are flexible as far as interior layout is concerned and do work? That over complicated technical specifications and exterior finishes requiring constant painting/varnishing may not be the most eco-friendly and economical in the long term? Odd roof shapes don't shed water as efficiently as traditional ones do?

Why they failed? Well in trying to be radical externally interiors seemed shoehorned in as an afterthought, rather than being what came first.

I also wonder what went through the minds of those who designed houses where it would, for example, be very difficult indeed to change lightbulbs or clean glass? Where mezzanines and strange high level shelves/recesses were apparently inaccessible? Where there seemed nowhere to put a washing machine and / or freezer? Where a front door opened directly into an open plan living area? In Inverness? In winter? Where a log burning stove was upstairs; try hauling logs and disposing of ashes up and down stairs (apologies if it was gas, but I think not). Do people really want bedrooms with vast glass windows and an upstairs terrace/balcony facing the public road? Do they really want kitchens as part of living areas? Many I spoke to didn't. How about an external stair (unbuilt at the time of visiting): why? There was an internal stair. Do families really want to sit upstairs in a living room/mezzanine which overlooks the kitchen sink?

Bathrooms /shower rooms were often spacious but without any cupboard space and with nowhere one could easily be added. A couple had windows in the showers themselves.

I could add hugely to the list of 'impractical' and space wasting. Clearly designing houses which actually work in practical terms is an artform many have yet to master.

That's just the buildings, and I have a notebook full of similar concerns.

Yes there are wider issues to discuss/consider. Maybe another day.
richard heggie
#37 Posted by richard heggie on 15 Sep 2010 at 23:42 PM
I'd be interested to see some views from architects who entered the design competition for the Expo (winners or losers) on how seriously it was taken. Are the broad criticisms set out above a reflection of a perceived low status and reward for winning the competition, or is what we saw at the Expo as good as we can expect from our best architects?
I know there were adjustments in the aims and remit of the Expo event as the organisers adapted to changing circumstances. Did this have any effect on the quality of design?
Are any winning architects reading this comment trail and recognising criticism of their own buildings? Can they comment?
I guess I'm really asking what lessons can we learn and how can we take these forward to Expo 2?
#38 Posted by brian on 16 Sep 2010 at 12:12 PM
At last, a posting from Mac which gets down and dirty and actually illustrates genuine physical points which need addressing.
eg "interiors seemed shoehorned in as an afterthought, rather than being what came first."
So rather than get involved in contextual arguments of massing; sustainablility; ambition; etc ..., let's just look at the mechanics of the problem - Does the 'machine' actually work? And would you want to own that machine?
#39 Posted by wang on 16 Sep 2010 at 12:31 PM
as a cad monkey working on volume housing in a past life, it's extremely difficult to design a housetype that suits everybodys needs, when there is a client the machine idea would work, but for a speculative house builder a best-fit plan, which has to involve the contextual issues, is all that can really be achieved
Malcolm Fraser
#40 Posted by Malcolm Fraser on 16 Sep 2010 at 13:06 PM
Yes, we kept things simple and recognisable - and as we were passed between developers, and were moved to a different site and orientation during the masterplan process, such robustness served us well. Yes, faced with a different process we'd have set mair heather alight. Yes, we're relaxed about whatever happens inside our houses - that's what happens in the real, non-rinky-dink world and, again, robustness serves us well. You'll note my comment, in the piece, about "learning" - some things others did well, and we should all look to pockle the best moves from the whole site. My positives: well-placed, generous windows (wide and shallow in bedrooms esp nice); bed plats into pitches (Rural Design and Graham Mitchell v good); wood!; outshots/the enclosure of wee courts (Nord, JM etc v good). Liked the Anta house a lot - the advantages of a simple, direct process. Negatives: the voids/double heights (inc ours - houses too small in plan for them to work). Nice to see intelligent comment here.
#41 Posted by JR on 16 Sep 2010 at 14:56 PM
Glad to see some realisation that the double height spaces didn't seem to work too well. I was surprised at the sheer number of houses that seemed to try them when just too small.

MF's houses were good, and you could clearly see that there was a definite program difference between those and, say, Nord or JM's schemes, or even the hooses directly across the road from Fraser's.

I remarked at the time that they looked like they could be my parent's house if it were to be overclad in timber and zinc.

Obviously there is plenty going on under the materials and in the finer detail to render that point a bit off, but the parallels between whole life houses designed to be energy efficient/to cater for 'loose fit'/different needs and developer houses from the 1960's retro-fitted with good heating and better insulation that still catered for a family of five (and continues to do so) should really highlight what I think the Expo was about in the first place.

To be honest, they certainly weren't my favourite house there, but which house would you rather see replicated throughout the housing schemes of Scotland? Malc Fraser's or something like:
#42 Posted by Mac on 16 Sep 2010 at 14:57 PM
Thanks Malcolm, really good of you to join in, of course there were successful features as well as stuff from which all can learn. (I forgot to mention the fitted cupboards where the doors couldn't be opened fully as the bed was in the way...)

But how to do it? That's the question. How do we share what was great and what not so great, in an honest, supportive atmosphere which isn't unpleasant?

It's not only about the next Expo, it's also about the wider future.

I'm worried in case no lessons are learned.
The Flâneur
#43 Posted by The Flâneur on 16 Sep 2010 at 14:59 PM
Congratulations on the award Malcolm. Simple straightforward house which was about raising the bar. Nothing wrong with that.

My hope is that the Expo does get developers talking about how they can improve their products and flashy gestures are more going to put off, rather than encourage, what is a notoriously conservative industry.

Personally Rural Design’s Secret Garden house was my favourite particularly for the thoughtful way the ground floor worked and for the spatial qualities of the living room in particular. The generous fire place with its glazed surround and the daylight filtering down through the skylight over the couches were delightful. The sleeping ledges over the children’s bedrooms were also a nice touch. As a small child I’d have loved such a Christopher Alexander / Gaston Bachelard like space. Could almost see the team sketching it out… A talented practice well deserving of their Saltire Medal.

On the affordable housing side I also enjoyed Plot 4.1 the Timber House by John Gilbert architects. I believe this was designed by Matt Bridgestock who now heads up 55 North Architecture. Not much mention of this one in commentary so far. A simple straightforward house that had a lovely Scandinavian warm wood feel inside. Those two semis felt like they would make someone a wonderful home.

Also liked the interior of House number 7 by David Sommerville Architects. Excellent joinery particularly the stair with its Aaltoesque touch. Wasn’t quite so taken with the exterior and presume the architects must have been disappointed in the copper cladding.

The Anta house, though it was really more a classy but ‘n’ ben, was rather cute and, judging from their new clients book sitting on the desk inside, was drumming up considerable new business for them.

Felt most sorry for Bracewell Stirling Architects and their Modular House which had unfortunately been Glasgow blinged to death by whomever the interior designers for Tulloch Homes were. Also the double height space were the living room overlooked the kitchen sink was somewhat curious. Evidentially whomever designed it hasn’t had a bad dinner party experience with dishes being dumped in the sink etc. Not sure I’d like that so obviously on view in front of my guests. And how could you conceal a sudden domestic in the kitchen if the desert goes tits up?!

Was not sold on the air source heat pump and mechanical heat recovery approach taken in the HLM house. Tried debating an alternative breathable wall solution with the MHRV suppliers but, naturally, they were insistent that their approach was the only way to overcome condensation issues in an air tight house and it was naive of me to suggest otherwise.

Also did anyone try getting there on public transport? It wasn’t easy. I knew which bus to take but still had to wait on 4 buses before I could convince one of the drivers that the Expo was on his route. When I explained what had happened to the person in the Expo’s ticket office she looked at me as though I had descended from space.

Finally does anyone know if the SUST Seminar series will be available online at some point? Lots of interesting speakers so I'm sure many would benefit from seeing it. After all it wasn’t as if you could just pop up from the central belt for an evening…
#44 Posted by Matt on 16 Sep 2010 at 17:03 PM
Personally, I think the lack of a defined client for the houses might have contributed to decisions which put interesting 'ideas' above practicality. Generally the social housing was pretty robust layouts, mainly due to having a housing association checking and commenting on drawings from a users point of view throughout the process. The HA space standards also encouraged architects to think of ways of maximising the feeling of space within very tight floor area allowances. Malcolm Frasers and Rural Designs were excellent because they considered maximising useable spaces for ordinary life. Many of the houses had huge floor areas compared to social or developer benchmarks, I think the Expo should be starting a discussion about space standards in housing.

Thanks for the comments on plot 4.1 - using massive timber was our competition aim and small floorspace allowance meant that simple was the only way to do it. Lots of workmanship issues and a god awful kitchen to address next time round, it was actually good to see Graeme Massies as a construction shell, to see the detailing, although I dread to think how well it survived a month stood out in the weather.

I have written a blog on the bits I liked -

I don't think anyone thinks the Expo, in itself, is the answer to Scotland's housing but as a vehicle, I hope it successful in encouraging wider debate on housing issues with the house buying masses, developers and professionals.
The Flâneur
#45 Posted by The Flâneur on 16 Sep 2010 at 20:00 PM
I agree with your comment Matt. And I think it has prompted debate. I know a lot of professionals and developers who made the effort to go and have a look.

In no particular order my three key criteria that need to come out of the Expo / be addressed by this are:

1. Sustainability. How to ramp up efficiency standards but avoid eco bling. I appreciate that the organisers and builders were pushed for time because of the harsh winter but I would have liked to have seen more in each house on how they were constructed. Mocked up sections through walls etc. What air tightness levels were achieved? Was it easy to do so or did the builders struggle? A key issue for the industry given the looming 1st October date for the new technical standards. What approaches different architects had and why they opted for them? Are the houses going to be monitored afterwards to judge their actual energy use? I only spotted one energy monitor throughout my trip though there could have been more… Presumably SUST be publishing a report at the end of the day so that there is feedback that informs how industry and the profession move forward?

2. Urban design (which is linked to above). It was good to see the Expo as an alternative to cookie cutter development but sited where it was on the edge of Inverness’s suburbs it felt a bit King Canute. You only had to exit the Expo site onto the distributor road to feel that this wasn’t going to address key issues such as how we actually re-engineer our suburbs to be more sustainable. With regards to placemaking the Caddell 2 masterplan worked well on the site but inevitably an Expo means different buildings competing for attention. In some areas that informality worked well. In others less so. I suspect Caddell 2 would rather have seen a Greendykes style material palette in place. Be good to hear what their thoughts are on this. It would also be good if the next Expo (and I hear through the grapevine that No 2 is on the cards) addressed inner city suburbs or regeneration issues.

3. Space standards. I spoke to many people there be it lay people, students or industry professionals and the continuing refrain was the lack of storage space. In one or two houses I wondered around them thinking “where are the cupboards?” only to discover, once I’d found them, that they were stuffed to the gunnels with the most intimidating heating systems. Where were you meant to put your stuff! There were even bedrooms in one of the Housing Association properties where I wasn’t convinced they complied with Housing for Vary Needs Standards. Sadly lack of space is hardly unique to the Expo as it is a UK wide issue. It’s good to see the Mayor of London having the bottle to tackle this with the London Housing Design Guide. And what happens in the metropolis is inevitably going to influence what happens here. Someone should take the initiative to get the author, Alex Ely of MAE, up here to talk through the issues and how the industry down there has reacted to them so we can start preparing for this now. Alex is a lovely guy, quite modest, and very approachable. I’m sure he would love to get an invite.
Christian A. Wittke
#46 Posted by Christian A. Wittke on 16 Sep 2010 at 20:32 PM
Frankly, I admire all comments for trying to be so polite and politically correct; are you not all fed up with putting lipstick on the pig? True, describing the reality and then again might not be in many people’s interest; but does that secure the trade’s future? Does that help to advance the industry facing the fact that it is years behind the same on the Continent and that the ongoing lack of training and education will let us fall behind even faster but use even more imaginative descriptions of what we don’t know too much about.

Not daring to say the truth, being afraid of criticism or merely to may be violate any kind of suppositious law, i.e. a discrimination act or similar ... will not help us achieve anything and in the end puts even more responsibility on those hiding behind such excuses as on those not seeing and/or not understanding the real problems.

Carpe diem!
#47 Posted by C.A.Wittke on 16 Sep 2010 at 20:45 PM
Sorry, the links in #46 do not work; so please visit and the Expo related article(s) to understand what I am referring to.
The Flâneur
#48 Posted by The Flâneur on 16 Sep 2010 at 21:00 PM
Of course you can be critical. For instance I understand that a decision was taken not to apply the 2010 technical standards to the houses. Somewhat lacking in ambition when surely an Expo is the ideal opportunity to demonstrate to the industry in advance of the change just how the new standards could be put into practice.

When I was in the Rural Design house two young builders, both in their late 20’s, were getting quite animated /angry discussing how they had taken the initiative to go on a series of courses to learn about Air-tightness construction as

1. they felt that they both needed to keep abreast of the new standards, and
2. there was market there,

and yet there was barely a mention at the Expo of the imminent change in the technical standards! They wanted to know why this wasn’t being properly explained especially given the volume of visitors.
Christian A. Wittke
#49 Posted by Christian A. Wittke on 17 Sep 2010 at 08:15 AM
@The Flaneur
Yes ...that is the "responsibility" that I referred to.
#50 Posted by Matt on 17 Sep 2010 at 10:20 AM
John Gilbert Architects have published a technical note on Plot 4.1 inc pressure test results - I believe this was available at the Expo at JGA's cost.

I suspect that other architects have this detail, the expo site does not allow this to be published, nor could it be included in the catalogue, perhaps other architects can share their information here to be digested and discussed?

Malcolm Fraser
#51 Posted by Malcolm Fraser on 17 Sep 2010 at 10:28 AM
... I should also have noted, on my posting above, that MFA credit should be to Neil Munro, who authored the project, assisted by Helen, Calum and Sarah. Credit too to Hazeldene, our original developer, and Tulloch Homes, who built it beautifully.
uncle tom
#52 Posted by uncle tom on 17 Sep 2010 at 20:44 PM
Malcolm...I wouldn't live in it. Its nothing more than a fancy wooden shed. Give it 5 years and it will be a mess. You talk a good game!
#53 Posted by Treehugger on 17 Sep 2010 at 22:47 PM
Give it five years and the wood will have weathered to a good silver. I'd live in it.
Well done all involved. Nice project.

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