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Early September saw the official opening of two exceptional new houses at Achabeag. Their pioneering construction and design mean they must be among the most desirable rental houses in the country.

Part of the affordable housing commitment by Ardtornish for the new development at Achabeag, the houses were designed and built by a unique partnership created for the purpose. Morvern’s Roderick James Architects, The Highlands Small Communities Housing Trust, and Ardtornish Estate created the Achabeag Partnership, and built the houses with the assistance of the Scottish Government and Highland Council. Construction was by MacDonald Joinery.

The two different house types – the Croft House, and the Fair and Square, illustrated both above and below – have dramatic full-height internal living spaces, with Douglas Fir structural frames, and very good levels of natural light from roof glazing. The aluminium clad timber windows are virtually maintenance free. The timber for both was sourced mostly from local forests in the Lochaber area, the insulation using recycled newspaper collected by local schoolchildren, and processed by Warmcel. Novel sloping exterior walls and pagoda-style roofs give both great charm and individuality. The minimal heating requirements are met by a woodstove and off-peak electricity, heat storage in a thermal floor slab, and solar thermal panels for hot water.

Speaking at the launch, Hugh Raven from Ardtornish said

“Almost exactly a year ago, in early September 2012, there was a newspiece in the Scottish press lamenting that house building in Scotland was at a sixteen-year low.

“Not here it hasn’t. In Morvern, it’s a different story. Here it’s exactly the opposite. I’m pretty sure it’s true to say that in Morvern, housebuilding is at an historic high. I’d bet that not since the construction of Kirk Brae in Lochaline nearly forty years ago has there been such a pipeline of new houses planned or in construction.”

He went on to thank all those involved in the development, including the Scottish Government, Highland Council, and the other members besides Ardtornish of the Achabeag Partnership. Among the construction partners he especially thanked Angus MacDonald and his team from MacDonald Joinery, BSW, and Robertsons.

Roderick James added

“Both houses have been built as prototypes and show houses for future developments across the country. A wide range of suppliers was invited to help build and fit them out to a standard well above that covered by the budget. Many have helped enormously – contributing materials or products free of charge as their investment in the venture, with a view to being part of the team to deliver these house types much further afield – to self-builders, developers, local authorities, and social landlords. Particular thanks are due to MacDonald Joinery, BSW, and Robertson.”

The Partnership put together a unique financing package, enabling the two houses to be let on the local affordable housing market for twenty one years, at relatively low cost to the public purse.

Ronnie MacRae, director of Highlands Small Communities Housing Trust, said

“HSCHT are delighted at being able to pilot an innovative new lease scheme in partnership with Ardtornish Estate.  We hope this new financial model, which was only made possible recently following helpful changes made by Scottish Government to the leasing legislation, will encourage further affordable housing opportunities across the country, and we’re excited about the possibilities.  With the Scottish Government grant from the innovation and investment fund of £25,000 per house, we were able to get a cash budget of £110,000 per house in total – an exceptionally low figure for houses of this quality in such a remote, and potentially costly, location. HSCHT has invested £35,000 per house, and Ardtornish Estate £50,000, and about £40,000 per house has been contributed in donations and in kind. It has shown a huge commitment by Roderick James Architects, to pull together over twenty different suppliers, and the builder MacDonald Joinery.”

Margaret Burgess, Scottish Government Minister for Housing, said:

“I am delighted to see this project coming to fruition, which as well as delivering new affordable rented housing in a very remote rural area, includes the innovative use of long leases.  This is one of the first projects to use this type of lease for affordable housing since the Scottish Government made changes to the scheme, and it is heartening to see the practical results on the ground – the provision of high quality sustainable homes.

“This project also demonstrates strong partnership working between the local community, the Housing Trust, the Ardtornish Estate and businesses, ensuring the best use of private finance alongside public subsidy.

“I hope this pilot project encourages further such partnerships, which not only support local economies, but also help to sustain local communities.”

Fair & Square Sept 2013
Croft House Sept 2013


Contributors to the houses are:

Ardtornish Estate Company                                                        www.ardtornish.co.uk

Roderick James Architects LLP                                                  www.rjarchitects.co.uk

MacDonald Joinery                                                                     macdonaldjoinery@aol.co.uk

BSW                                                                                           www.bsw.co.uk

Robertson                                                                                  www.robertson.co.uk

Allen Gordon & Co.                                                                    www.allengordon.co.uk

Sungift Solar                                                                              www.sungiftsolar.co.uk

Carpenter Oak                                                                           www.carpenteroak.com

Warmcel                                                                                     www.warmcel.co.uk

Velux                                                                                          www.velux.co.uk

Warmup                                                                                     www.warmup.co.uk

Vent Axia                                                                                   www.vent-axia.com

Clearview                                                                                  www.clearviewstoves.com

CEF electrics                                                                            www.cef.co.uk

Hager Ltd                                                                                 www.hager.co.uk

Deluce Lighting                                                                        www.delucelighting.com

JTC kitchens                                                                            www.jtcfurnituregroup.com

Smeg                                                                                       www.smeguk.com

Direct Slating                                                                           www.directslatingsupplies.co.uk

Sheffield Insulation                                                                  www.siginsulation.co.uk

Knauf                                                                                      www.knaufdrywall.co.uk

KRend                                                                                    www.k-rend.co.uk

Sadolin                                                                                   www.sadolin.co.uk

Zeroflame                                                                               www.decorireland.com

Lindab                                                                                    www.lindab.com

Kastrup                                                                                  ww.spectruminstallations.co.uk

McDonald Engineers                                                             www.mcdonald-engineers.com

Plumbase                                                                              www.plumbase.com


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