Grampian Housing Association’s old school regeneration project clinches architectural accolades


GRAMPIAN HOUSING ASSOCIATION’S visionary Old School regeneration project in Ballater has earned prestigious recognition at the Aberdeenshire Architectural and Landscape Design Awards 2023. The project, located at Abergeldie Road, not only secured the top spot in the Building Communities for the Future category but also received commendation in the Conservation and Building Adaptation category.

Designed by Ian Rodger Architects and owned by Grampian Housing Association (GHA), the development boasts 24 properties available for social rent, comprising a mix of one, two, and three-bedroom flats, as well as two and four-bedroom family houses.

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The accomplished design team included McCue & Porter as the quantity surveyor, Ramsay & Chalmers as the structural engineer, and Gordon Mitchell Contractors as the builder.

Significantly, the project revitalised a building at risk, seamlessly blending the preservation of old structures with new construction through the use of modern materials. The refurbishment’s quality is underscored by the use of real slates, traditional harling, and lime mortar, maintaining window openings and timber windows in harmony with the building’s original design. Modern extensions and annexes were removed to restore the school to its authentic layout.

Ian Rodger, the project’s architect, expressed delight at the recognition, stating, “We are overjoyed to have been recognized in those two categories. Well done to Grampian Housing Association, to have been proud enough of the finished scheme to put it forward for the award.”

The judges acknowledged the well-thought-out development, providing a variety of properties within the former school buildings and creating new properties on the site. Through strategic positioning and communal greenspaces, the development fosters a welcoming and successful community.

Craig Stirrat, Chief Executive of Grampian Housing Association, highlighted the commitment to delivering well-designed, high-amenity, and attractive housing. He thanked Ian Rodger Architects for contributing to the project’s success, emphasising how the development addresses housing needs while creating balanced communities through thoughtful layout and landscaping.

Stirrat noted, “In terms of wider regeneration benefits, the building was saved from decay, which was important for local residents.”

The Ballater project, identified in the Local Plan for affordable housing, addresses the shortage in this rural area, providing more people with the opportunity to stay in their local village. The disused, listed building within the Ballater Conservation Area contributes to the wider community, offering employment opportunities, supporting the local economy, and protecting the local primary school.

The development received Scottish Government funding of £1,791,984, with Grampian contributing £2,338,907 through capital borrowing. Aberdeenshire Council Top Up Grant amounted to £198,000, with the total contract value at £3,464,710. The project also qualified for Renewable Heat Incentive (RHI) funding of £282,000 over 20 years.

Grampian Housing Association collaborated with Aberdeenshire Council to establish a Local Lettings Plan, ensuring local people benefit from the new homes. The ground floor accommodation is targeted at the ageing population and young single individuals. Adapted properties with level-access showers support a local family with a child with disabilities.

In a pioneering move, Ballater is Grampian’s first development to trial Switchee, a Smart asset management tool aligned with the sustainability strategy. It monitors the building’s health and optimises energy use, contributing to lower bills and reduced energy consumption, benefitting both tenants and the environment.

The integration of ground source heat pumps further aligns with sustainability efforts, providing heating and hot water while mitigating the carbon footprint and future-proofing the properties from reliance on fossil fuels. Grampian Housing Association’s Ballater development stands as a testament to thoughtful regeneration, community integration, and sustainable housing practices.

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