‘Microhomes’ tipped to help address Scotland’s housing crisis

A Scottish architectural practice is pioneering new ‘microhomes’ to help address the nation’s housing crisis.

Lorne Haycock, founder of Linwood-based LH Architecture, told Project Scotland that he believes smaller residential properties can be the solution to a range of challenges including a shortage of housing, the energy and cost-of-living crises, and aspirations to lead more sustainable lives.

Lorne is behind Microhomes, a new offering of offsite-constructed homes than can be built in as little as 6-8 weeks. Featuring all the requirements necessary to satisfy building regulations, there are four different house types to choose from – two one-bedroom properties, a two-bed, and a three-bed.

Despite only launching the concept in December, he has been inundated with enquiries and, at the time of interview, had 140 people awaiting responses. Interest has been received from as far afield as France, Ireland, and Cornwall.

LH Architecture was founded 12 years ago and has specialised in bespoke design work for a variety of projects ranging from secondary schools to listed building refurbishments. In recent years, the practice has focused more on new-build housing, which has increased Lorne’s understanding of some of the challenges currently engulfing the market, mainly around affordability and the increasing build costs.

He explained, “There’s a housing shortage. There’s an energy crisis. People are living on their own a lot more. We set about looking at what was the smallest building you could get through building control as a dwelling house. The smallest one came out at just under 40 sqm. We got that priced up and released a couple of teaser images. Things have just taken off from there.

“That was mid-December. Since then, we’ve designed three other options right up to a three-bed. Part of what we’re trying to do is get all the team together that we’ve been building houses with for years and wrap everything up into one clear price for people that gives them signed off houses they can live in that are sustainable and Scottish-built.”

Lorne expects the first microhomes to be built soon. He revealed that enquiries have ranged from people looking for smaller properties to house elderly relatives in their back garden, through to young families seeking different options of home ownership. There has also been considerable interest from those in the off-grid living community and about the potential for the homes to be used as accommodation for workers carrying out projects in remote locations.

Other possible uses include housing for students or to help prevent potential population decline in rural locations and parts of the Highlands and Islands where housing issues have been well documented.

The turnkey concept, Lorne added, seems to have hit a nerve with people and, rather than chasing the dream of owning a big house, made some reconnect with ‘what’s important in life’.

To allow the buildings to be classed as dwellings and signed off by the relevant authorities, planning permission and building warrant approval must be obtained.

The microhomes feature fully fitted bathrooms and kitchens, bedrooms, living space, floor finishes, triple-glazed windows, and Scottish Larch cladding. Lorne explained that most of the home will be factory fitted with structural insulated panels (SIPs) before being transported to site.

“We’re trying to build a decent product for people,” Lorne added. “There are a lot of products out there purporting to be houses and they’re just not. They’re garden rooms at best. People are spending a lot of money and not getting value from it.”

While the homes boast sustainability features such as heat pumps and triple glazing, the true environmental benefits, according to Lorne, are found in that fact that living in a much smaller space and embracing a simpler life is more efficient.

LH Architecture has been collaborating on the project with a team of construction professionals and builders it has worked with for years. The use of a fully Scottish supply chain and an ambition to use as many Scottish materials as possible also brings sustainability gains.

“People are beating my door down,” Lorne admitted. “There’s been a bit more interest than I’d expected. We’ve looked at companies in America offering similar things that have taken off in a massive way. There’s been a lot of positive feedback from people in property industries across the country.

“Mortgage applications are down significantly in Scotland. There’s no getting round the fact that’s to do with the economy and the cost-of-living crisis, energy crisis, interest rates. I’m trying to provide people with a genuine alternative building and a genuine alternative way of living.

“We’re already in the marketplace. We’re just getting started with it. I can’t see us not building them anytime soon.”