One of the most important initiatives for many years in considering how we should build (and refurbish) housing for the future of Scotland has taken place in Inverness.

The Housing Fair led, by the Highlands Housing Alliance and given strong support by the Scottish Government, built 52 houses ranging from a country cottage through terraced and detached houses to a flat block. Set in an overall plan, which starts to implement the shared space principles in the Government’s new Planning Advice, it experimented with different ways of minimizing energy consumption within the buildings whilst providing a wide range of new architectural designs from the austere to the exuberant.

The scheme was open for all of August and was understandably very popular with both the general public and those with a practical interest. It is a shame that it was not open for longer and more widely advertised but in many respects the exhibition is only one part of the benefit that will accrue. As the houses are occupied (some are for sale and some are for RSLs), we will continue to learn about their performance in use both technically and socially and incorporate the results in our practice. In addition, there are two smaller scale, similar projects currently in hand, one by BRE and the other by GHA, which will support the Expo’s work.

The idea came from Finland where it is a regular event used to explore a wide range of issues. If Scotland is serious about building houses that are cost effective in construction and use, whilst providing accommodation that meets modern needs and the social setting that aids the development of communities, then a regular Housing Expo moving around the country is essential. There are some weaknesses in this first example but these are in themselves part of the valuable outcome that will allow the next one to be even better. All invo