RUSS, the volunteer-led Community Land Trust, reached a significant milestone earlier this year with its project to build 36 new homes at 12 Church Grove, writes Eleanor Margolies, trustee and interim managing director.
Five flats were handed over as ‘shells’ in January – with walls, windows and front doors in place – for their future residents to complete.
Since then, the 11 self-builders have learned how to install partition walls, ceilings and plumbing, working under the guidance of the Self Build Management team of local architect Sarah Boyd and carpenter Harry Bridgeman, along with
qualified electricians and a plumbing tutor.
Practical support has come from volunteers with a wide range of backgrounds and experience – from people who built their own homes at Walter’s Way in Honor Oak in the 1980s to current students of architecture and sustainable design.
The Church Grove flats are designed to be low-energy, with high-performance insulation, double or triple glazing and solar panels on the roof.
An air source heat pump will produce hot water for all the flats – meaning there’s no need for gas.
Some of the self-builders have also chosen to install MVHR systems which capture the heat from kitchens and bathrooms and reduce energy requirements.
The RUSS self-build team will expand further to build timber bike sheds and bin stores with living ‘green’ roofs.
The landscaping group is planning a new garden accessible to the whole community, with raised beds for vegetable and herb-growing, and in the autumn future residents and friends of the project will be invited to plant trees and shrubs along the
Before long, fragrant climbers like honeysuckle and clematis will twine around the concrete pillars and residents will make use of the planters incorporated into balcony railings on every floor to grow their own hanging gardens.
Future residents have been involved in the design process and customisation from the start, contributing as volunteers in everything from building the community hub to
writing management policies.
The final stage of self-build will happen once residents have the keys to their homes.
Some have opted to install their own kitchens or do their own tiling, and all the flats will need flooring, skirting boards and decoration.
In coming months, six flats will be advertised via Lewisham Homesearch, providing much needed homes for people on Lewisham Council’s housing waiting list or for existing council tenants hoping to downsize and free up larger homes for others.
There are also some spaces remaining in the two ‘sharer’ flats designed for three individuals sharing. Email firstname.lastname@example.org for further information.
Most of the other flats are now allocated but RUSS maintains waiting lists for those interested in any future vacancies. Find out more https://www.theruss.org/apply-for-a-home/
Help is always needed in lots of areas, from building to cooking and communications, with friendly teams and the chance to learn new skills.
To volunteer at RUSS and find out more about this pioneer in the community-led housing sector, please contact email@example.com