Newsletter - Links - Advertise - Contact Us - Privacy

‘Our Island Home’ design competition launched

Bookmark and Share | Send to friend

September 24 2013

‘Our Island Home’ design competition launched
Rural Housing Scotland has launched a design competition for an affordable, energy efficient home, suitable for island locations with the support of Architecture and Design Scotland - who have assisted development of the competition brief and are supplying a member of the A+DS board as a juror.

'Our Island Home' invites entrants to prepare proposals for a two bedroom home to be built in three locations across the Hebrides and is open to all practices with five or fewer ARB registered staff and the capability to deliver their designs.

As a first stage in this process applicants will be invited to draw up concept designs from which five shortlisted entrants will be asked to develop fully costed, technical designs with a maximum budget of no more than £100k.

The competition brief states: “Building affordable housing in island communities can be difficult due to the high cost of transporting materials and labour. The small developments required generate few economies of scale restricting the viability of projects.

"Household incomes are also low and often unpredictable limiting the borrowing available to island households. Whilst incomes are low, fuel costs are high as most island households are limited to electricity or oil as heating sources.

"Our Island Home aims to tackle these issues by developing an affordable island starter house that is easy to build, easy/cheap to heat and generates economies of scale.”

The shortlist will be announced in November with the winner set to be unveiled on 28 February, 2014.


very affordable...
#1 Posted by very affordable... on 24 Sep 2013 at 14:31 PM
... at least for the client, but who can afford to enter? the winner only gets 2k for designing 3 hooses, and shortlisted entries get just 500 for their detailed design.
boaby wan
#2 Posted by boaby wan on 25 Sep 2013 at 09:52 AM
too true very - £500 to produce "detailed
technical, deliverable designs, fully costed and technically robust" and no doubt they will expect these shortlisted teams to visit the proposed site on mull, a nice cheap site visit there!
I applaud the intention of the project but it really seems like a cheap way to design affordable housing without having to pay anyone proper fees, no doubt the profession will swamp this competition with entries and further reduce the worth of design... (no doubt the five shortlisted practices are already shortlisted)
Absentee landlord
#3 Posted by Absentee landlord on 25 Sep 2013 at 10:13 AM
If this is genuinely to address the needs of islanders, why have they specified two bedrooms? Are these just going to become yet more holiday homes?
Please take our ideas for free
#4 Posted by Please take our ideas for free on 25 Sep 2013 at 10:20 AM
Should this be what AD+S is about? Promoting at risk competitions which see 90% of entries giving away their ideas (which they don't seem to appreciate is our commodity) and time, to satisfy what I'm sure is some sort of public funding requirement regarding value for money.

Having lived and worked on the islands the main problem isn't houses, it's land prices driven up by second-homes and holiday lets.
Please take our ideas for free
#5 Posted by Please take our ideas for free on 25 Sep 2013 at 10:27 AM
Interesting article on BD regarding architectural competitions. Hope it's OK to post to external site.
boaby wan
#6 Posted by boaby wan on 25 Sep 2013 at 10:46 AM
ptoiff - link needs a paid subscription,
and of course you are correct on land values, the other major issue is that the season employment/salaries in remote areas makes it almost impossible for anyone young living there to access the money - the idea of a "starter home" (to me anyway) is interesting but I would say that speaks of something adaptable, extendable when the family grows etc, however, given the competition is inevitably only ever going to aid housing association type ownership where future adaptation is likely to never happen - it seems that the brief and intention doesn't really address any of the issues with rural housing for young families
boaby wan
#7 Posted by boaby wan on 25 Sep 2013 at 10:51 AM
also, the main issues I've had designing rural/isolated houses is the infrastructure and site constraints - again things that are not addressed within the competition brief.
It is assumed the site is free and fully serviced, so you remove the two biggest issues with housing in rural areas, then ask for standard housetype designs rather than exploiting the (truly) great aspect of designing in rural areas - the landscape!
#8 Posted by ptoiff on 25 Sep 2013 at 10:56 AM
Apologies on the link - which needs registration.

The idea of what this competitions wants to deliver is interesting, but it would probably be more useful for consideration to be given to a replacement to the RHOG (Rural Home Ownership Grant), which was removed a few years ago, and which really helped people priced out of the island market to buy and build.

I completely agree regarding the likely housing association type ownership. The danger is also that private owners will discover 2 bed is prime holiday let size, and it's very difficult for people to refuse a sure fire earner.
#9 Posted by no42 on 25 Sep 2013 at 12:23 PM
Clearly the role of A+DS together with Rural Housing Scotland in perpetuating the prostitution of a profession is highly questionable. The collective input of this profession to such competition is absurd. An architect entering this competition should question the morality of supporting this illusion of a discredited business model. Until architects balance design inputs with economic outputs the continuity of this profession must remain in doubt.
protect yourself
#10 Posted by protect yourself on 25 Sep 2013 at 13:19 PM
if you're going in for this
a} make sure you assert your moral rights to have your name associated with any of your imagaery used in publicity and
b} if you win take them at their word in relation to copyright. they say copyright resides in the author but dont say that submitting the design confers a license to use it in development (only in publicity) - so make sure you negotiate a sensible fee for the license to use the design on each and every subsequent build to ensure you cover your liability etc.
#11 Posted by Confused! on 25 Sep 2013 at 20:22 PM
It's a competition! If you don't like it don't enter! Simple!
#12 Posted by Bodhisattva on 26 Sep 2013 at 09:48 AM
I say to all ARB registered architects, the target entrants for this competition, time for a boycott.

Disgrace on A+DS for taking their £1.7M budget of public money and supporting this sort of insidious harvesting of ideas from the architecture profession, not exactly champion behaviour for “Scotland's champion for excellence in architecture, placemaking and planning”. If they had the whit, they might have steered the cabal of lay persons (and a QS) that is the judging panel, to have challenged kit house manufacturers (STA) to propose a new generic designs, that way they might be seen to be trying to raise the game in Scotland.

This is not the way forward for the emergent Community Land Owners in Scotland to develop their property; it has the stench of abuse and tyranny that these self same groups were seeking to replace in their acquisition of land.

This competition (so called) has all the same hallmarks as the George Square fiasco, in that instance, promoted by the RIAS, another failed organisation.
boaby wan
#13 Posted by boaby wan on 26 Sep 2013 at 10:42 AM
@11 - yes, it's a competition (that is seriously flawed in the brief/justification and cannot address any of the issues it sets out to - whilst at the same time, inviting architects to design (to a fairly well developed level) for no money whatsoever, to possibly win a 2k fee to deliver a 100k house)
A+DS should at least be advising on the rough fee scales (for prize money) for a 100k house - obviously total value would be significantly more given the site issues not included in the 100k
Alan Dickson
#14 Posted by Alan Dickson on 26 Sep 2013 at 11:14 AM
I have queried this with the competition organisers. The winner will be paid normal fees for the commission, in addition to the 1500 prize. It sounds like a normal open architecture competition to me, without which we would not have had Mackintosh's Glasgow School of Art, Utzon's Opera House or Benson and Forsyths Museum of Scotland.
Most competitions require sufficient information to cost proposals, and this is no different
If you don't like open competitions then don't enter.
Gerry Bradley
#15 Posted by Gerry Bradley on 26 Sep 2013 at 11:57 AM
Nice wee project.....unfortunately already involved in far too much "unpaid" or "at risk" work. Boycott!
boaby wan
#16 Posted by boaby wan on 26 Sep 2013 at 13:25 PM
Alan, thanks for that, certainly makes it a bit better for the eventual winners - but not sure you can compare those projects with a 100k affordable house!
My point is that the competition seems entirely flawed with the brief and objectives not actually addressing the problems of building houses in rural (island) areas
Alan Dunlop
#17 Posted by Alan Dunlop on 26 Sep 2013 at 13:31 PM
There is no commitment in the documentation, that I have seen Alan to commission the winning architect to complete the project or pay " normal" fees. To ask shortlisted architects to submit fully costed and tecnically robust proposals for £500 is in my view, a scandal and that A+DS should be supporting it a sad reflection of how little architects are respected in Scotland or their contribution valued. That you should quote the GSA or Utzon's Opera House or the NMS as comparable to a £100,000 kit house is also frankly bizarre.

Anyone who submits for this needs their heads examined, in my humble view or open up a small news agents, it'll be time better spent.
Jodi MacLeod
#18 Posted by Jodi MacLeod on 26 Sep 2013 at 14:32 PM
I'm project officer for Our Island Home. The project aims to help and support young islanders in the Hebrides. If you have any queries regarding the competition, my contact details are at the end of the competition brief- if you have any queries I'd be more than happy to clarify.
Alan Dunlop
#19 Posted by Alan Dunlop on 26 Sep 2013 at 15:03 PM
Well Jodi, pay a reaqsobale honorarium to the shortlisted architects that reflects the amount of work required ( and there is a lot, it's a complex problem) or give an unequivocal committment in the competition documentation that you will commission the winning architect to complete the project and pay appropriate fees, otherwise it looks like your helping and supporting young islanders in the Hebrides and "community landowners" by undermining young architects in Scotland.
Alan Dickson
#20 Posted by Alan Dickson on 26 Sep 2013 at 15:19 PM
I am certainly not comparing projects, just articulating that open competitions can occasionally produce positive outcomes. The housing needs of the islands are complex. Design and construction are one issue, land value and tenure amongst others. The rural housing service will most likely attach burdens to the properties to ensure they remain afforadable. I understand a clarification note is going to be issued to cover a number of the queries raised.
I agree the document could be clearer, however I do think people should raise the questions with the competition organisers prior to jumping to conclusions.
While the scale of the project may not be to everyone's taste, it does not mean it is inappropriate to examine these issues by this means - many of us are passionate about the rural landscape and use these opportunities to test ideas. If that means I need to have my head examined then that's fine by me.
boaby wan
#21 Posted by boaby wan on 26 Sep 2013 at 15:56 PM
good to see the views of the two Alan D's!
Alan Dickson, I assume you have looked at all of these issues before, will you be going for something much more adventurous to push the design along given you have already designed a (not) kit house aimed at this market already?
(or different AD?)
have you clarified the intended ownership of these (in the long term) with the competition organisers? The self build aspects mentioned in the brief are a little confused if they are to be built for social landlords - or are they to be sold off as "affordable" after completion to the people that helped build them?
I hope the clarification note does it's job!
Alan Dickson
#22 Posted by Alan Dickson on 26 Sep 2013 at 17:07 PM
Thanks Boaby.
Housing ownership and tenure in the rural context is ripe for innovation, the tradition of self build needs to be encouraged and a method has to be found to bring these things together. Rural Housing Scotland and HSCHT are both investigating fresh ideas, and I understand these projects could fit into this process.

As I said above, design is only one aspect of this.
We have been pursuing various strands of independent research now for a few years, and I would hope to use this competition to give a push to one of these ideas.

Last time we did something like this it turned into a successful spin off company, but then again I need my head examined.
Down to Earth Solutions
#23 Posted by Down to Earth Solutions on 27 Sep 2013 at 18:33 PM
At Down to Earth Solutions CIC we are working hard to forward a strong case for a replacement to the now defunct Rural Home Ownership Grant. I applaud the comments and observations above and also have reservations about intentions and outcomes. Why not support interested folk to self-build simple natural homes, create a sense of pride and make self-building more achievable and affordable?
#24 Posted by Andy on 28 Sep 2013 at 08:16 AM
Very suspicious all round. As a musician I get asked to play "for exposure" many times. It`s never worth it, and often its not even appreciated.
#25 Posted by Bodhisattva on 3 Oct 2013 at 13:53 PM
@ Alan Dickson, you, amongst other contributors, have been more effective innovating excellent rural planning guides and should continue to keep the ear of government in such matters. Participating in a ‘half cocked’ competition is only going to keep your ‘eyes of the prize’ whilst the less well qualified take more lucrative/valuable/desirable projects from under your nose.

For an example of the real competition, in a rural context, go to the link below and read that a technician/lecturer/architectural services provider will utilise his students to design a new terminal building for Skye Airport, all the way to Planning and Warrant. This was also reported on the BBC, Landward, and the Scotsman.

It seems that anyone can design a building in Scotland and thus erosion of status in the architectural profession will continue.

I suggest that you quit plucking around like Nero in AD 64, get some solidarity and lobby for change before the game over.

Post your comments


All comments are pre-moderated and
must obey our house rules.


Back to September 2013

Search News
Subscribe to Urban Realm Magazine
Features & Reports
For more information from the industry visit our Features & Reports section.