Glenalmond Street Case Study

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Project Data
Project Type Residential
Location Glenalmond Street, Glasgow, G32 7UG
Client Shettleston Housing Association
Date Completed 1999
Project Value £700,000
Funding Sources Scottish Homes (Core Funders) and Forward Scotland (Additional Funding)
Architect John Gilbert Architects
Main Contractor Robinson & Davidson
Services Engineer Enconsult
Quantity Surveyor Armours
Specialist Consultant Nuaire (Solar Panel Insulation – Solar Energy Systems; Solar Ventilation)
Gross Internal Floor Area 1383 sq. m.
Structural Engineer Montgomery Smith and Partners


A small estate of 16 affordable homes in the East End of Glasgow which features a geothermal energy system, solar water heating, passive ventilation and use of solar gain. The site is also car-free.


In 1997 Scottish Homes (later Communities Scotland and now part of the Scottish Government) sponsored a competition for the creation of a sustainable housing development. Interested parties were given the opportunity to apply for a Housing Association Grant to support the initiative. Shettleston Housing Association is a community-based body managed by a voluntary committee of tenants and community representatives. Though reluctant to embrace a scheme on sustainable qualities alone, the association was attracted to a development that combined alternative energy sources and high insulation levels in order to reduce running costs for tenants. A critical factor in the submission with which John Gilbert Architects helped Shettleston Housing Association win the competition was the proposed use of a geothermal energy system.


When the competition to build the development was won, the housing association pre-let the flats and houses that would be created and set up a tenant focus group to contribute to discussions about the design, internal layout, fittings and finishes. The pre-letting also allowed for the fulfilment of individuals’ specific requests, provided they came within budget. For example, residents could opt for the inclusion of a tiled bathroom at the expense of basic house decoration, or French doors in place of floor coverings in the bathroom.

The proposal to make this a car-free development was resisted initially by the Roads Department (of Glasgow City Council). But the Planning Department was supportive of the fact that this would result in more secure and private spaces and a relatively child-friendly environment, and approved the suggested measures.

The key aspects of the architect’s approach were:

  • to address the best use of the site, in terms of housing layout, aspect and solar perspectives;
  • to research construction techniques that used sustainable materials;
  • to aim to conserve rather than supply energy;
  • to research the best materials available locally, taking into consideration their life-expectancy, and trying to anticipate any related issues of maintenance;
  • to discuss with the people who were going to inhabit the buildings to establish their needs at the outset.

The conditions of the grant imposed relatively tight guidelines on the project. The compact nature of the project reduced the opportunity for large-scale cost reductions, but this was balanced by the fact that the site was easy to develop, being beside the road and with services near.

The commitment to a vehicle-free development reduced hard-landscaping costs, allowing funding to be re-routed into alternative heating systems. Additional costs included £5,000 for solar water panels; £2,000 for solar air ventilation and £3,000 for water recycling. These elements were funded by a grant of £10,000 from Forward Scotland.


Site layout

The flats were made south-facing, with a 2-storey single-glazed ‘solar close’ maximising solar gain; the terraced houses were orientated in an east-west direction to avoid overshadowing the gardens, while allowing sunlight to filter through both sides of the building. The vehicle-free layout increased the green space available. Trees were planted on the west perimeter to protect houses from excessive solar gain in the evenings. The rear gardens are planted and beech hedging used at the front of the development. Bin stores were located at the front of the estate, facilitating a more secure terraced layout. A solar-heated ‘sunspace’ was incorporated into the top-most south facing flat.

Materials selection

  • Locally sourced materials included bricks from Uddingston just outside Glasgow and cladding of larch grown in Perthshire. The ironmongery chosen was aluminium made in the UK: brass ironmongery was rejected as it was made in China or India. UK-made brass ironmongery was available but was too expensive.
  • Recycled or re-used materials included brick reclaimed from the former buildings on the site, stone setts and paving slabs and material from other Housing Association properties including insulation, floorboards re-used in attic spaces, and two complete bathroom suites saved from other jobs. This would not have been possible without the commitment of the Housing Association’s Development Officer.
  • Insulation was made from recycled newsprint; panel material made from wood-fibre sheathing.
  • Timber was used as the main construction material – timber windows and doors were specified; a certain amount of concrete was used for foundations and screeds. Untreated softwood boarding and OSB (Orientated Strand Board) was used in place of chipboard as a means of reducing formaldehyde content.
  • Entrance flooring was made from natural rubber rather than vinyl.
  • Aluminium gutters were used at low level in preference to PVC.
  • Calcium silicate boards and render-finish were used on wall areas in place of brick.

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