Plans for affordable eco-friendly homes in Knowle West a step closer

Main image: Design of one of the new homes by architects Studio Bark.

A community-led housing initiative has moved a step closer to building affordable eco-friendly homes in Knowle West.

We Can Make – a partnership between digital arts charity Knowle West Media Centre (KWMC) and local residents – submitted plans to Bristol City Council in June to build its first two houses.  

Residents been working with architects Studio Bark and White Design for six months to create the designs for the homes.

They want them to be “genuinely affordable” – with rents set at no more than one third of the average household income for Knowle West, and be owned by a community land trust.

Residents have also asked that they “enhance the character of the area” by being “high quality and creating landmarks the whole community can be proud of.”

The eco-homes will also use 50% less carbon to make than the average UK new home. 

The designs will make space for nature by including green roofs, a roof garden and bike storage as well as planting that encourages biodiversity. 

We Can Make is also about supporting the wider economic regeneration of Knowle West. 

Community fabrication space KWMC: The Factory is being developed as a neighbourhood housing factory. 

Training for local residents and tradespeople is already underway with 15 people taking part in workshops to learn new digital construction skill.

We Can Make has already identified over 1,000 sites in Knowle West which could be suitable for one of their homes. These ‘micro-sites’ are situated between buildings, in large back gardens, and on left-over bits of land. 

So far 80 families in Knowle West have registered their interest for one of these homes.

The first two houses are for local residents John and Toni. 

John’s Story  

Image of John by Rebinet Abayneh

John has lived and worked in Knowle West for many years. We Can Make has submitted a planning application to build him a one-person, one-bedroom house.

His new home (main picture) will be constructed on a ‘micro-site’ in the rear garden of an existing council house, where Bill and his son live.  

John and Bill have worked with Architects Studio Bark to develop a design that meets both their needs – giving both households their own access and privacy, including a hidden roof garden for John.   

John says: “I’m in temporary accommodation at the moment, living in a shepherd’s hut. The We Can Make home is brilliant because it’s a secure home of my own I can afford and in a place where I can be close to my family and work. I’ve got construction skills so I can help build it.” 

Bill says: “… This helps me out because I’ll have a much more manageable garden and someone close by to help out if me or my son need it. I like the design – I think it’s clever and it will work well for us. I love the roof garden too. It means we both have a bit of our own space.”  

Toni’s Story

Image of Toni by Rediat Abayneh

Toni currently lives with her mum and step-dad in Knowle West, where she was born and raised. She has recently had a baby daughter, Amancia and feels the family home is getting a bit crowded.

Her new home is designed by architects White Design as a single storey two-bedroom house, with kitchen, bathroom and open-plan living space. it also has a green roof and solar panels. 

She explains: “…. I want to stay close to my parents who are helping with childcare, but I also want my own space. They have a big garden where we’d like to build a new home for me and my daughter.” 

Toni’s mum Mandi adds: “Now Toni has Amancia they really need a bit of space of their own but they could never afford a place normally…. I really like the design  – it’s nice and green and blends in. I get to keep a good size garden and am nearby to help out with the baby…” 

Toni’s new two-bedroomed home. Drawing by

Both homes exceed National Space Standards and if planning permission is granted, construction will begin in the autumn. 

Director of We Can Make, Melissa Mean, says: “We Can Make is about much more than just delivering housing units. We’ve been working with John and Toni and the wider Knowle West community to make sure these homes are good for the people who live in them and good for the neighbourhood.

“Our community-led approach shows how you can have more homes, and at the same time make the neighbourhood greener and create jobs for local people. We hope these two homes are the first of many in Knowle West and beyond.” 

We Can Make is supported by the Nationwide Foundation and Homes England to deliver up to 16 similar homes in Knowle West over the next eighteen months. 

After this pilot phase, the aim is to help more people in the locality in housing need – and also roll the approach out to other neighbourhoods in Bristol and further afield.