Scotland’s first community-owned Passivhaus Certified homes win SURF award

The Closeburn community-owned Passivhaus project, the first of its kind in Scotland, has won the “Housing and Regeneration” category at the SURF Awards 2020.

Scotland's first community-owned Passivhaus Certified homes win SURF award

Closeburn housing (photo: Tom Manley)

Scotland’s Regeneration Forum (SURF) held its prestigious annual celebration presentation on 18th February to announce the winners of each category for outstanding work in regeneration work across Scotland.

The award ceremony was streamed live on Vimeo as the winners were announced. Surf’s panel of 20 independent judges included Scottish Government cabinet secretary for local government, Aileen Campbell MSP. The event coincided with the ceremonious presentation of the official “Passivhaus” plaque to the community group taking place earlier the same day.

The winning housing project was developed by Nith Valley Leaf Trust (NVLT) in partnership South of Scotland Community Housing (SOSCH).

Three families moved into Scotland’s first community-owned Passivhaus-certified homes in the summer of 2020, Representing the community of Closeburn in Upper Nithsdale, NVLT are a Community Development Trust whose objective is to help sustain and grow local population, support local services and address climate change. The project – funded by the Scottish Government’s Rural Housing Fund - has delivered three safe, secure, energy efficient, affordable family-sized homes.

Working with the support of SOSCH since 2017, the community organisation identified a demand for family housing in the village but were also determined to address issues of fuel poverty and climate change and set the ambitious goal of delivering new passive homes. This goal has been realised with the help of the Rural Housing Fund and the Scottish Land Fund.

Having identified a gap-site in the village in the ownership of Dumfries and Galloway Council, NVLT secured ownership of the land via Community Asset Transfer and the support of Scottish Land Fund, who also provided funding for NVLT to employ and train a Project Officer.

In addition to capital grant from the Rural Housing Fund, the group also unlocked grant from Windfarm Community Benefit Funds (ANCBC and SSE Clyde) and a loan from Ecology Building Society.

Levels of fuel poverty in Upper Nithsdale are some of the highest in Dumfries and Galloway, with no access to mains gas and traditional stone properties being reliant upon solid fuel, electric storage heating or other inefficient heating sources. Based on this NVLT worked with Stewart & Shields and John Gilbert architects to deliver three Passivhaus standard homes.

Scotland's first community-owned Passivhaus Certified homes win SURF award

Tenant Gemma Harvey and her family (Photo: Tom Manley)

Passivhaus buildings provide a high level of occupant comfort, while using very little energy for heating and cooling. Passivhaus homes are built with meticulous attention to detail, rigorous design and construction according to principles developed by the Passivhaus Institute in Germany and can be certified through an exacting quality assurance process. These homes generally need 90% less energy for heating and hot water than standard buildings and have very low running costs.

NVLT offered tenancies to three families who met criteria established within their localised Allocations Policy, developed in line with identified needs and demands. The three houses are now home to eleven new residents who will help sustain the local primary school and support other businesses and services within the community, all contributing to local resilience.

NVLT and all of their tenants are extremely happy with the homes and the recognition of the SURF award. Planning is now underway with SOSCH around their next community-led housing project.

Kevin Stewart MSP, housing minister, said: “This ambitious project shows what a community can achieve when empowered to take local decisions. Supported by over £300,000 from the Scottish Government’s Rural Housing Fund, these new homes will grow and sustain the community as well as providing safe, warm and affordable places to live.

“I recognise that good quality, affordable housing is essential to help attract and retain people in Scotland’s rural and island communities. This parliamentary term, we have committed over £3.5 billion to deliver our target of 50,000 affordable homes, including 35,000 for social rent.”

Emma Scott, events manager of SURF Awards, added: “The judges were particularly impressed by the Trust’s vision to provide high quality energy efficient homes to tackle fuel poverty and climate change, and by the partnership approach adopted to turn this vision into a reality.”

Sara Jackson, head of business services at SFHA, said: “In a year that has seen organisations and groups across Scotland facing unprecedented challenges due to the coronavirus pandemic, it is particularly apt to celebrate the achievements of those working in our communities. Your work not only supports our communities – it improves people’s lives – and SFHA would like to congratulate the winners of the 2020 SURF Awards as well as the nominees.”

Mike Staples, chief executive, SOSCH, commented: “Receiving the SURF Award for Housing is a great boost for the whole project team. Bringing together a great team around the project was integral to its success and it’s great to see the tenants now enjoying the benefits of passive homes. For SOSCH, it’s great to have SURF recognise the potential of community-led housing and hope this project will form a benchmark for future projects in the South of Scotland”.

Scotland's first community-owned Passivhaus Certified homes win SURF award

 Tenant Samantha Austin and her family (Photo: Tom Manley)

Jakob Kaye, project officer, NVLT, said: “Working on the Closeburn Passivhaus project has been an incredibly positive experience on so many levels. There is a real sense of pride amongst the community that we are able to provide environmentally friendly and economically warm homes to local families at affordable rents.

“We hope that this project will prove to other similar rural communities that this is a game changing solution to various issues. The fact that these homes owned by the community Trust not only gives a sense of security to the families living there but bolsters the sustainability of the local amenities such as the primary school. To win the prestigious SURF Award has been a real honour and boost for the whole team and community”.

Gemma Harvey, a new tenant in the homes, said: “We have been really excited to be involved with this project with NVLT and feel like it has been a good thing for our community as it has provided more housing to keep people within the area and making use of space that was otherwise wasted. The houses are really lovely and so far appear to have been energy efficient and cost effective as we were told they would be.

“Obviously due to the Covid-19 pandemic the moving and settling in process has been a bit different than perhaps it would have been but NVLT, especially Jakob, have been as helpful as possible to make sure any problems or queries are dealt with as quickly as possible.”

Samantha Austin, another tenant, added: “I would like to say that we love our new house we are so happy it has been amazing to finally have somewhere secure after being given 28 days-notice twice last year and being made homeless with 2 young children by private landlords to finally have somewhere we can call home and know we are safe is amazing.

“I definitely think if there is the opportunity for the trust to build more house they should as bringing more people to the village and community is always a positive.

“I have now been able to start my childminding business from the house which is an amazing opportunity and more houses could bring in more potential people with businesses, services and skills to the community.

“I think this has been a great use of the land that was here as there was nothing being done with it before now so this is a big positive.”

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