The scheme was designed to pilot a self build for rent model using public finance. Members of the group have been fully involved in design, planning and construction of the homes as well as in the training of members, and the project demonstrates that high standards of ecological housing using green construction methods can be achieved within cost limits. The scheme has included landscaping and the construction of communal facilities.
The land was purchased from the local council and the building work funded by South London Family Housing Association. The steep gradient of the site made it difficult to develop using conventional construction methods but problems were overcome through following the Segal approach to construction. This allowed the builders more freedom with the location and design features so that they were able to position buildings close to trees and overcome planners’ concerns about the density of new buildings on the site. Special design features included turf roofing which increased the grassed areas of the site and thus appeared to reduce the density of buildings on the site. Additionally the houses have been designed with high insulation and have been able to achieve National Homes Energy Rating (NHER) standards of 9.8 out of a possible 10.
The scheme was funded partly through Housing Association Grant and partly through loan finance. Members worked for 24 hours per week over a period of two years.The Diggers’ self builders, who are one of several housing co-operatives in Brighton, were offered the opportunity of managing and looking after the scheme through the formation of a Tenant Management Committee (TMC) which would be responsible for the long-term maintenance of the works. However the offer was not taken up.
Each tenant benefits from a reduced rent as well as the possibility of a capital payment if they should ever decide to vacate their home.
The Diggers’ scheme has received many awards - among them a Housing Project Design Award and an Environmental Care Award in 1994 and a R.I.B.A. / D.E.T.R. Housing Design Award in 1997
Construction: Diggers Self Build Co-op
Developer: South London Family Housing Association (SLFHA)