The Glebe

Location: The Glebe, Isle of Iona

Clients: Iona Housing Partnership & West Highland Housing Association

Type: 5 New-Build Affordable Homes

Completed: April 2016

Contractor: TSL Contractors Ltd (Mull)

Structural Engineer: John Peden Associates (Oban)

Quantity Surveyor: Morham & Brotchie (Oban)

Photography: Ross Campbell

The Glebe is an ambitious project initiated by the community to deliver 5 new affordable rented homes for Iona residents. This crucial development was driven by the goal to secure a future for families who live and work on the island and sustain a way of life.

Roots were appointed by local community group Iona Housing Partnership (IHP) to transform an existing over-budget design proposal into a viable project.

It took the IHP over a decade to secure a site.  It was highly prominent and within a Conservation Area 250m from Iona Abbey, one of the most significant religious buildings in Western Europe.   

Roots undertook an extensive analysis of all houses on the island to understand how to emulate the vernacular characteristics of Iona.  This informed a concerted effort to strengthen the existing settlement pattern, and began a dialogue of consultation with the community to ensure the approach was appropriate. 

An efficient 2-bedroom house design was developed that could be repeated across the site and gain a bedroom with a small single-storey addition to the plan.  These units were arranged into a terrace to reinforce the linear layout of the existing settlement. The design incorporated banded windows, strong gables and asymmetric front facades that are typical of the area. 

IHP was determined that The Glebe would endure by being practical for island living and therefore provide more generous, flexible interior spaces than typical new-build affordable homes. 

The design includes a lobby ‘air-lock’ to prevent heat loss from the interior; a utility room for muddy boots and drying clothes; and space for home office working to support local enterprise.  Durable, tried & tested materials (slate and roughcast), and an efficient primary heating system (air source) where included.  

These features build resilience into the design and support the domestic needs of islanders who are frequently cut-off from the mainland during winter.  




‘The Glebe’ is an example of efficient, compact and robust housing in a challenging area.
— Saltire Society, Scotland
Housing is a big issue on the island. It was really important that we had decent houses for people to live in to keep young families on the island, and keep the island vibrant.
There was a lot of thought put into the layout of the houses and how they would function for families.
Its the design that I’m most proud of... from the outside the houses look good and they fit right into the area... and on the inside the spaces are fantastic.
— Fiona Kyle, Trustee, Iona Housing Partnership