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New Housing Models for an Autarkic Rural Community

New Housing Models for an Autarkic Rural Community

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  • Neil Burford
  • Carol Robertson

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Original languageEnglish
Early online date11 Oct 2015
StatePublished - 2015
EventHousing – A Critical Perspective - Liverpool, United Kingdom


Autarky, the quality of being self-sufficient, potentially provides a new sustainable, economic model for rural living that could reverse recent high-carbon settlement practices and the associated costs of rural home ownership. This paper explores new spatial forms of autarkic housing for a rural site owned by the National Trust for Scotland in Cottown, Perthshire where the demand for new housing in near rural areas is predicted to increase by as much as 33%. The Grade-A listed thatched and earth-walled Schoolhouse, a relic from a lost local vernacular once widespread throughout the Carse of Gowrie, acted as a catalyst for sustainable thinking along with a body of thematic research into national, regional and local trends in population, housing demand and energy consumption. The research directed proposals for alternative theoretical models and spatial concepts for affordable, low-energy regionally responsive housing development. The study uses map progression and measured survey work analysing the layout and building characteristics of the hamlet. While density studies identified the current capacity of the developer model, setting the benchmark for financial viability, proposals are based on urban densities whilst maintaining overall numbers of units with the objective of intensifying the reading of landscape between built form and open space, and releasing land for community use, food and energy production. Intended as an alternative to mass-market housing, the proposals address the broader requirements of the Scottish context in terms of sustainability, low energy use, low-carbon material resources, and the competitive market place. The spatial quality of the proposals at intimate and distant scales are key considerations in developing imaginative and appropriate solutions for new forms of sustainable living, with forms and an identity directly related to the site’s particular geographical location and peculiar regional sustainable building traditions.

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