Raise the Roof began in response to the local need for affordable housing in Bridport, West Dorset. It aims to stimulate new ways of addressing the crisis of affordable housing, in particular through ways of building which are rooted in the local material, social and economic context. Confounded by the climate crisis and economic uncertainty, a number of organisations started looking for more imaginative ways of building community resilience, beginning with the people and materials of the place.
The idea at the heart of the project is to use a whole breadth of local resources to tackle the issue, in an attempt to create a circular economy. This means working with local professionals of different disciplines, using local materials, and involving the local people who ultimately will benefit from the newly created housing.
Through a series of collaborations with designer-makers, architects, artists, economists, students, naturalists, builders, councillors and others, Raise the Roof’s aim is to demonstrate the ecological and social potential of creating new spaces and places from locally-sourced skills, ideas and materials. It uses research that combines history, ecology and the local distinctiveness of the built environment with innovative use of materials, technology and approaches to community-planning.
We are aiming for a more open, inclusive conversation that ensures that the building of homes and work spaces really does benefit the local community, create jobs, support local industry, enrich biodiversity and strengthen the social fabric of Bridport and West Dorset. This can only be achieved by empowering the community to take ownership over their part in the developments, which in turn requires them to have the skills and knowledge to become meaningfully involved. One of Raise the Roof’s goal is to provide the local community with these skills.
Developments so far
Assemble Studio helped Raise the Roof to engage with local residents, craftspeople, artists, architectural students, council planners, community land trusts, builders, landowners, landlords and foresters. Assemble developed the conceptual and strategic conclusions of the project, which include a range of potential house types as well as technical work on the potential construction methods and materials.
The project began by identifying specific places to focus the work, and it was agreed that these would be a large 760 housing development, Foundry Lea to be built on the edge of Bridport over the next 10 years and a small plot of council owned land in the town centre which could offer space for a prototype building made of timber and hemp.
Building a Tiny House Workshop
The Raise the Roof partners developed a practical workshop on sustainable construction using local materials, which, albeit delayed due to Covid-19, was successfully delivered. 14 unemployed people took part in the artist-led workshop, which built a tiny house for donation to a homelessness charity working with rough sleepers. Eight of those participants now have found employment as a direct result of that creative training.
Bridport Area Community Housing
It was recognised that a community land trust was required for the Bridport area in order to take forward propositions emerging from the Raise the Roof process, and so Bridport Area Community Housing (BACH) was established as a community benefit society. BACH has subsequently secured further funding to work with Assemble on designs for a pilot terrace of four houses, as part of the next phase of Raise the Roof. This will take place in 2022.
This first phase of Raise the Roof was also summarised in a submission to the William Sutton Prize for Sustainability and Place Making, and the project was short-listed.
Two part-time coordinators have been recruited and a new programme of activity has been developed.
The developers of Foundry Lea have agreed to co-locate a specialist workspace to facilitate the processing and fabrication of components from local materials. This will provide the opportunity to construct prototype buildings using timber and hemp – with the latter being grown by local farmers as a result of a partnership which has emerged from Raise the Roof. The new fabrication facility will also provide a base for a range of training courses in sustainable construction, use of natural materials and digital design. Artists and designer-makers will be invited to deliver courses for local people as part of this wider programme.
The partners have submitted further funding bids to extend the work of Raise the Roof, in order to deliver a timber makerspace facility, develop the training programme and create digital tools for design and materials sourcing. This development work is being supported by partners at Plymouth University, through a grant awarded to Raise the Roof from the Engineering & Physical Sciences Research Council.
About Raise the Roof
Raise the Roof is the umbrella organisation for a partnership between the Arts Development Company, charity Common Ground, Turner-prize winning design collective Assemble, community-development organisation Wessex Community Assets, Community Benefit Society Bridport Area Community Housing, Plymouth University and Bridport Town Council. We openly invite others to join the conversation. Funding has been secured from the Nationwide Foundation, Friends Provident Foundation, the Arts Council and the Connected Everything programme.
The Arts Development Company’s involvement in the project is overseen by ADC Arts and Environment Lead Cleo Evans, who is a founding partner of Raise the Roof and advises on strategy, sustainable materials and the arts elements. Find out more about the Affordable Housing Crisis and the pioneering and award-winning work of Assemble here.