Greenstreet Hill, Brockley

A self-build housing co-operative built in timber frame, around a communal garden, in the early 1990s.

Site and context

The site off Drakefell Road in Brockley was originally owned by the Council, but had not been used for council housing by the 1990s. As a relatively small site it was available for development.

Development process

CHISEL Housing Association helped to facilitate the formation of a housing co-operative, and supported the establishment of the project. The co-operative members were actively involved in selecting architects and the designs of the project. They had to contribute a certain number of hours to the construction of the project every week, alongside formal employment or other duties, as a condition of the affordable housing grant.

The original residents organised the construction work and physically built their own homes, learning a great deal through the process.

Layout and massing

Car parking is provided in one part of site, leaving the rest of the site available to group houses around a shared garden space in the middle of the site. Access to individual homes increases the chance of bumping into neighbours and building a strong sense of community.

The houses were designed in close consultation with the group and individuals. Variations to the basic layout were easily achievable as the wall elements are independent of the structural frame.

Construction and sustainability

The simple timber frame method was pioneered by architect Walter Segal on self-build schemes in the early 1980s, and since developed and updated to meet construction standards. It is particularly suitable for people without previous building experience as it is makes economical use of ‘off the shelf’ materials, detailed to require as little cutting as possible, while keeping the construction process largely ‘on-site’.

The structure uses small pad foundations at the foot of each post. This allows development close to mature trees without expensive retaining structures. The houses incorporate energy saving features and environmentally-healthy specifications.

Scheme information

Architects: Potter & Holmes
Planning Authority: Lewisham
Site area: 0.45 acres
Scheme: 11 affordable units
Density: 61 u/ha

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