USCA Community Housing

Two affordable, three-bedroom homes for Ulva Ferry School Community Association on the Isle of Mull. These houses are unique community owned social housing.

About this project

The brief focused on energy efficiency and family use, but the houses were designed to be lifetime homes, also suitable for home working.

The interior spaces are designed to be generous and spacious. Emphasis was placed on the kitchen and dining space as the heart of family life, and of the home, and a strong connection was made between the living spaces, the garden, and the landscape beyond. To maximise living space, and in response to budget, formal circulation was kept to a minimum. Generous and easily accessible storage is located above the bedrooms, and an ample utility and laundry space connects directly to the garden.

The architect's focus was to cater for the specific needs of a rural family, and to provide extremely low energy houses, addressing the difficulties associated with fuel poverty. The houses at Ulva Ferry have been certified for energy use as ‘Silver’ certification from the Association for Environment Conscious Building (AECB) and have also achieved Building Standards Silver Sustainability certification.

The construction was economical, yet highly insulated. The homes have more traditional north facing elevations, as seen from the road, with large areas of triple glazing to the south, to open from the living areas to the garden and landscape. Cladding was sourced from a vernacular palette of Scottish larch and corrugated metal.

The houses are located next to Ulva Ferry School, a small local school, and contribute to the sustainability of the local community, with two couples with three children each as the current tenants.

The houses were designed using Passive House principles, and energy use has been estimated using the Passive House Planing Package. Heat loss is minimised due to a focus on high insulation levels, very good PSI values, modest north glazing and abundant glazing to the south, making the most of solar gains. Heating is provided by a single storage heater in the main living space, along with a heated towel rail in the bathroom. Hot water is mainly provided by solar thermal panels in the summer, with an electrical back-up in the winter. Pipe runs are minimal as wet services are closely grouped, which reduces heat loss. The mechanical heat recovery system ensures that cooking smells from the open plan kitchen are minimised and humidity is controlled throughout the house. At the same time, this system recovers heat from the extract air to ensure nothing is wasted. The houses at Ulva Ferry are featured in Issue 23 of Passive House Plus Magazine.

Timber: Cross laminated radiate pine structure. Scotlarch cladding.

ImagesJohnny Barrington


The project received the Scottish Rural Innovators award for Housing 2016 and a SURF sustainability award for Housing in 2017.

Key contacts


Thorne Wyness Architects


David Narro Associates


Norman MacDonald Builders

Timber supplier

CLT: Egoin; Cladding: Russwood

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