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Best use of timber 2012 shortlist – Grödians

Name of building
Date Completed
May 2010
Building type
Quoys, Lerwick, Shetland
Richard Gibson Architects
Hjaltland Housing Association
Main contractor

E&H Building Contractors


The Project

Grödians is a new-build social housing development, commissioned by the Hjaltland Housing Association, comprising a mix of 1, 3 and 4 bedroom dwellings in flatted, semidetached and detached housing. It is the most recent of a staged housing development in the outskirts of Lerwick. Housing is placed within a new ‘Homezone’ based road layout comprising of communal parking, front amenity areas and larger central green spaces with private rear gardens.

In a place where the winter months are prolonged and harsh and daylight hours are minimal, the extensive planting and landscaping has been designed to bring shelter and reduce the wind chilling of the houses. A vibrant colour scheme was designed to maintain a visual warmth and ‘cheery’ appearance during winter. Close attention has been paid to the energy use and sustainability and the scheme exceeds the 2009 Building Standards baseline in terms of energy and carbon use by a margin of 15%, aided by connection to the Lerwick District Heating System.

Use of Timber

The scheme builds on a tradition of timber construction in Shetland, originating from the islands’ close links with Norway, which encouraged the importation of prefabricated boats and buildings. Brightly painted timber boarding was used rather than masonry cladding and initiated a break from the brown stain and white paint previously associated with timber cladding. Grödians takes this a stage further with a more adventurous and vibrant use of colour that is emphasised by the dark grey tiled roofs.

Timber is also used extensively in landscaping and the traffic calming measures associated with the ‘Homezone’ road design. Heavy sleepers were employed for the vehicle proof planters that define the offsets in the carriageways and for ‘furniture’ in the public amenity areas. Boarded fences are also used extensively to define the site, divide private from public space, shield refuse containers and provide shelter – with higher fences linking houses and blocks to reduce wind accelerating through the gaps. Timber used in this way is left unpainted to provide both contrast with the brightly painted houses and to provide robust forgiving surfaces in public areas.

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