An innovative new concept in affordable eco-housing in Bristol

Bristol City Counctil

11. 10. 2022

The go ahead has been given for Gap House, an innovative new concept in affordable eco-housing, to be built on disused council-owned garage plots in Bristol.


Bristol City Council’s Development Control Committee approved the plans today (12 October) for a row of nine affordable one bedroom, two storey homes on Bell Close in Horfield. Designed by global design practice BDP and to be delivered by EQUANS and Etopia, the homes have been commissioned and will be funded by the council.

We’re committed to delivering 1,000 new affordable homes each year by 2024 to help meet the need for high-quality, sustainable new homes in Bristol. It is widely recognised that achieving our ambition requires courage, innovation and collaboration. The Gap House concept will revitalise a disused garage plot and make sure that council land is best used to create value for Bristol citizens, delivering much needed affordable homes whilst tackling the climate and ecological emergencies. If the project is a success, then we will look to identify further sites for Gap Houses in the future.

Tom Renhard Cabinet Member for Housing Delivery and Homes at Bristol City Council

BDP originally showcased its Gap House concept design at Bristol Housing Festival in 2018, as a proposed way of helping to meet the city’s acute need for housing and revitalising neighbourhoods.

The homes will be cost-effective, eco-friendly and largely factory-built using modern methods of construction (MMC). The approach means that homes will be built off-site before being brought to the site for the final stage of construction, minimising disruption to the existing neighbourhood, as well as bringing environmental benefits and ensuring greater speed of delivery compared to traditional methods.

Each home will be highly insulated with low energy lighting to support minimal heating requirements and will use renewable energy generated by solar PV panels and air source heat pumps, resulting in low environmental impact and running costs.

The homes will include an open-plan kitchen-living area and a bathroom on the ground floor, with a bedroom and storage on the first floor. Large windows will allow for maximum natural light. The entrance to each property has been carefully designed to promote a ‘front porch culture’ with green space and outdoor seating in front of each home to encourage social interaction and community cohesion.

Martin Jones, landscape architect director in BDP’s Bristol studio, said: “Our Gap House concept to help meet the need for high quality, affordable and sustainable homes has been some years in the making, so we are thrilled that we will now see it come to fruition in Bristol. There are thousands of disused and run-down garage plots up and down the country that are ripe for intelligent repurposing, so we hope that this project will pave the way for other similar schemes in the future. The Gap House provides an opportunity to revitalise neighbourhoods, promote community cohesion and help address the acute housing needs of our cities and towns.”

This new concept is the latest in a series of innovations being explored by Bristol City Council and the Bristol Housing Festival to tackle the city’s housing crisis. Gap House is part of a wider research, development and innovation programme funded by Innovate UK, which looked at the potential for MMC to increase the scale and pace of the delivery of high quality, sustainable, affordable homes in the city.

Two other sites using MMC for council housing have also recently been given planning approval.

In Lockleaze 12 homes will be built on Romney Avenue, on the edge of the Stoke Park Estate. These highly energy efficient homes, which incorporates renewable energy, will be manufactured in a factory and constructed quickly on site.

And in Knowle West 12 one-bedroom apartments will be built on a brownfield site at the heart of the Inns Court community.

It is hoped that work on all three sites will start in Spring 2023.

Jez Sweetland, Project Director of the Bristol Housing Festival, said: “We are delighted to see another three developments from the Innovate UK funded ‘Enabling Housing for Inclusive Growth’ project approved for planning. Each of the nine MMC demonstrator sites have enabled Bristol City Council to address barriers to delivery of new homes and each of these are fantastic and potentially scaleable solutions for other sites in the city.”

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