In 2011 Shetland Islands Council, in conjunction with the Power of Place Festival of Architecture and Place in Shetland, ran a competition to design 6 low-cost sustainable houses on the island of Bressay which lies off Shetland’s capital, Lerwick. Redman Sutherland Architects in conjunction with Locate Architects were eventually selected as the winners from a field of over 30 architects from around Britain.

Creating a truly sustainable housing development means not only designing low energy buildings; there must be a holistic approach considering everything from design concept to how residents will live in the scheme. To do this successfully—and to reduce the carbon footprint of a housing scheme in Shetland—the emphasis must be on using local skills and local materials. With this in mind the design and detailing of the scheme has been kept deliberately simple; it attempts to maximise the use of the site to produce homes that will be simple to construct, simple to run and will allow residents to connect with their environment.

This innovative approach to design takes the spacial requirements of a standard council house and reorganises these to produce a simple design approach for sustainable living that can be adapted to suit the particular requirements of the environment in Shetland. Careful attention to orientation, the relationship between houses and the car, the use of local materials and a simple buildable fabric which minimises maintenance and reduces heat loss produce a scheme that is sustainable in the truest sense. The scheme will respect the local environment, be affordable to build and live in, will enhance tenants’ sense of wellbeing, improve their health and will help to create a sense of community for the residents from the outset.

Shetland Islands Council is committed to the project but, due to the current economic climate, have not been able to progress the development as yet.