We Can Make: Civic Innovation in Housing

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We Can Make: civic innovation in housing Melissa Mean Craig White Eleanor Lasota

The housing system in the UK is in crisis. We urgently need new ways to create the affordable homes people and communities need. We Can Make has created a participative "test space" in Knowle West, Bristol to explore new citizen-led ways to meet housing need. This report shares the journey and results of that experiment and how We Can Make will deliver new affordable homes at the point of need.


"Home. It’s like flesh and stones mixed together."








I Introduction


Home is the first infrastructure of everyday life. Home is shelter, safety, and stability. Yet almost 100 years on from David Lloyd George’s promise of "homes fit for heroes" and the 1919 Addison Act which ushered in Britain’s first mass wave of council homes, people’s ability to access a secure and affordable home is more challenging for more people than ever before. The pernicious ability of housing need to spill over into every part of a person’s life- affecting relationships, work, education, and physical and mental health- makes even starker the inadequacy of our collective response. Our conventional strategies to access housing are reductively competitive. They either require people to divert ever more of their wages and savings to getting on a property ladder where there bottom rungs are missing, or compel people to prove how weak and incapable they are in order to win eligibility for austerity rationed social housing. Instead of relying on speculative developers or last resort state provision, we desperately need new ways in which people and communities can better meet their own housing needs- a fundamental need for disruptive innovation.

We Can Make has sought to create a test space to explore new – citizen-led- approaches to creating more affordable homes at point of need. Much more than designing homes as products, We Can Make has focused on re-imagining the wider enabling legal, financial, and policy framework so that citizens, using their own assets and know-how, can become the developer themselves. From re-thinking what a development site is, to flat-pack homes, to community bonds, everything has been up for grabs. At its heart, We Can Make is an experiment in civic innovation. Working with the residents and community of Knowle West in South Bristol as a ‘living lab’, partners Knowle West Media Centre and White Design have brought together local people, artists, architects, policy-makers, academics and industry professionals to collaborate between and far beyond traditional professional silos. We Can Make has not only dreamt and re-imagined a different kind of housing future, but also begun to prototype that future in practical and scalable ways. This has included building a "Made in Knowle West" home that is beautiful, sustainable and affordable. Knowle West- its needs, assets and knowhow- are the foundation of We Can Make. However, the aim is to create a citizen-led system and set of tools for delivering affordable housing at point of need which can be replicated in other neighbourhoods and cities. This report shares the story so far and is an invitation for further collaboration as the project develops.


II A broken system


The UK housing crisis


To meet our changing and growing needs, the UK has to build at least 250,000 new homes every year. Our current housing systems alone are dramatically failing to do this. 300,000

Required 250,000 Local councils 200,000 HAs

100,000 Private developers


10 20

05 20

00 20

95 19

90 19

85 19

80 19

75 19




To meet our changing needs, the UK needs to build at least 250,000 homes a year. Our current housing supply-system is dominated by large speculative developers and they are dramatically failing to build enough homes. Of the homes that are built almost half are built by just ten large companies, and a quarter by just three firms. The result is a housing-supply chain that is structured by the primacy of developer profits1 and a web of harmful impacts.



The UK housing crisis

Annual housing completions by sector, UK Data DCLG

Homes are the most

UNAFFORDABLE they have ever been The average home is Bristol now costs 8.2 times average annual earning, compared to 3.6 times earning in 1997.2

Enabling people to shape their neighbourhood

Growi n local g jobs a nd manu factu ring

A paralysed planning system where too often the only script offered to local communities is that of the perpetual NIMBY (Not In My Back Yard) as they attempt to resist low quality placeless developments.

Creating sustainable ways of living


Social care and looking after our growing elderly population

III a new hope the citizen sector


There is a growing interest in the citizen sector to help diversify housing supply. Despite enabling legislation at national level, however, the take-up so far has been slow. Self-build and custom build account for just 7% of new homes delivered each year in the UK, compared to 80% in Austria and 60% in France.3 A significant degree of the inertia is caused by the deliberately veiled nature of the development process. Access to land, technical knowhow, and financial resources continue to be controlled by professional interests and have disproportionate costs and barriers to entry. This systemised opaqueness and uncertainty means many individuals and communities don’t know what tools they need, can’t afford them anyway, and ultimately don’t have the faith that they can achieve the outcome they want: a safe, secure and affordable home.


THE DIY HOUSING MAZE LAND: most citizen-led schemes range from 1-10 homes, a size that is just too small and carries too high transaction costs for most council site allocation and land disposal processes to bother with. At the same time the longterm social and economic impact of citizen-led housing struggles to make its added value count in a highest-sale-price-wins market. The result is that communities are often left with the most difficult sites, which commercial developers have rejected, or are overly dependent on increasingly stretched local authorities as a route to get land at a discounted price.

FINANCE: at each stage of the development process risk and uncertainty accumulates from a lack of pre-planning development finance, to the high cost of social investment, to a lack of capital reserves to accommodate construction cost overruns. The high transaction costs of sticking together small pots of multiple funds, each with different strings attached, also creates substantial drag on community-led projects.

TECHNICAL KNOWHOW: from planning permission to finding contractors, the process of making homes is dominated by costly professionals. Not all individuals and communities have equal or sufficient resources to access this professional knowhow.

NO REPEATS: Most citizent-led projects remain non-replicable and the experience gained- often through years of hard graft- by individual residents stays stuck to specific sites with few people wishing to repeat the experience. The result is high per-project overhead costs in terms of both time and money as each new amateur has to learn and master the process from scratch. The isolation of individual projects also means the citizen-led asset base - which might be able to fund the next project - fails to grow. 18

start here u


IV Knowle West: a radical past


radical past

One hundred years ago, Knowle West was the future of housing when it was founded as a new estate based on the Garden City principles of Ebenezer Howard. Knowle West could yet prove to be the future of housing again. The starting point for a citizen-centred approach to housing supply must be a better understanding of needs and resources at the super-local level.

Over six months We Can Make worked with Knowle West in Bristol as a participatory test-space to explore what might be possible. Working with residents, artists, architects, academics and others, we mapped the day-to-day struggles many people face in meeting their housing needs. The co-design process also revealed the diverse knowhow and rich resources that citizens and the community hold and with which it is possible to begin to rethink how, where and by whom our homes are made. Knowle West is a working-class estate on the Southern edge of Bristol. Dubbed "the five thousand island forest" by the construction workers who built it, Knowle West offers 5,000 homes atop a hill surrounded by green space. The estate was part of a radical programme of house building by Bristol City Council which began in the 1920s, and was itself part of a nationwide wave of constructing council homes in the interwar period. This was spurred by the effects of the Great War, which increased the wish to house people to a level that could not be met4 by private builders alone.


The promise Ebenezer Howard’s * Garden City Movement was, and still is, a viable form in urban planning. It proposed the idea of building new towns set in the countryside, which could allow people access to nature and the health benefits that green spaces provide.5 In Knowle West this was interpreted to mean good quality homes set in generous gardens. 22


Lack of employment options

The reality Low population density

A key concept underpinning the Garden City was the idea that they should be self-sufficient and provide opportunities for work locally. When designing Knowle West, however, planners at the time did not take into consideration the residents’ need for places to work. When families moved out from the slums to the new estate they struggled to find jobs and earn money. A lack of local employment options remains a critical issue today. 6

The estate was built at a very low density, just 25 dwellings per hectare less than a half of the average density new developments are built at today.7 When the estate was first built - and even more so today with mass car ownership - the low population density makes it difficult to sustain vibrant local shops and services. For example, with an average of just 44.7 people per hectare 8 Knowle West falls far short of the 100 people per hectare required to sustain a regular bus service. 9

Lack of housing diversity is a three The standard Knowle West Home However, bedroom semi-detached house. reme many one size does not fit all. At one ext ditions with families live in overcrowded con into one multiple generations squeezed er of older home. At the other, a high numb are now too people live alone in houses that needs but large & don’t fit their changing smaller or feel stuck because there are no o nearby. more suitable homes to move int l house in 75% of those waiting for a counci 2 bedroom Knowle West are looking for a 1 or home.10


The impact

Miriam & David "We feel stuck."

Jess "Council housing is not for people like me. I’m not a priority. We have to get by on our own." Jess lives in the spare room at her parent’s house. She has just had a baby and space is getting squeezed. Her dad, who has a long term illness, often finds himself having to sleep on the sofa. Jess is on the council housing waiting list. She was offered a mother and baby unit in Brislington, which for her feels like the other end of the world, far away from her precious support networks. With her mum helping out with the baby, Jess has been able to get a part-time job, but it’s not enough to cover renting from a private landlord or save for a deposit. Her parents did put together a planning application for a side extension on their house. But it was rejected at planning and they gave up on the idea.


Miriam and David have lived in Knowle West for over thirty years in their three bedroom house. Their children have all grown up and flown the nest and David’s changing mobility needs means the couple is having to think about moving to a bungalow. However, there is no suitable housing locally and buying a bungalow is beyond their budget. Also, moving out of Knowle West would mean leaving their social networks behind. The couple feel stuck with no options to meet their changing needs.

Diane "I sometimes lose track of who is staying here." Diane has lived in Knowle West for over 60 years and knows everyone and everything that goes on in the neighbourhood. She has 30 great grandchildren who all live on the estate. Three of her grandchildren are currently living with her, and it sometimes feels like a revolving door of people staying and moving out as Diane provides emergency accommodation for the extended family. The three grandchildren currently with her are all in their twenties and thirties and saving up earnings trying to get on the property ladder but with no luck - prices are just too high. As the grandchildren get older Diane can only see the pressure on her spare room getting more severe.


V Knowle West: a radical future From needs to assets


Knowle West has many of the resources and assets that could provide some of the essential ingredients to building a new approach for people to create more affordable homes.

1. Pent up energy for change

2. Spare capacity

can make... Micro-sites bigwe enough to accommodate a one or two bedroom home are in abundance in Knowle West. This includes up to 1500 gap-sites between existing houses, and up to 31.3 hectares we can make... of developable garden space. Not all these plots will be viable, but even if 10 percent were developable, micro-sites represent a significant new supply of land held in citizen and civic hands.

70% of the homes in Knowle West have three bedrooms, but 54% of the community | HOUSEHOLD live alone, or with only one SIZES | other person.

People want to adapt their homes and community to better fit their needs. The ‘hacka-home’ spirit is strong in Knowle West, as evidenced by the DIY improvements people have done to their homes over the years. But, for anything more substantial, the current | HOUSEHOLD SIZES | system is frustrating many people. Our research found, planning applications from Knowle West are twice as likely to be rejected than those from more affluent Clifton.11

3. Space to grow

citizen-led housing

citizen-led housing

4. Knowhow Experience in construction and trades is high. Our doorto-door survey revealed that 52% of people had experience at professional or amateur level of at least one of the following: plastering, plumbing, electrics, roofing, carpentry, bricklaying, painting and decorating, and design.13

Even though 70% of the houses in Knowle West have 3 bedrooms, more than 54% of the community live alone or only with one other person. Knowle West needs more versatile houses

27 Even though 70% of the houses in Knowle West have 3 bedrooms, more

micro-plots in the spaces between existing homes and in the many large backgardens- upto 1500 plots of 3.5 meter width ((1000 of 4m+).

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How many more micro-sites


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Not all these sites will be suitable- it will be for existing residents to opt-in. But even if 10 percent did opt-in, this would create a significant new supply of affordable homes.

Gap micro-sites:


The minimum space required to build a 1-2 bedroom home is 3.5meters wide. Due to the low density of (25 dwellings per hectare) in Knowle West, We Can Make has calculated that there are nearly 1500 gap sites at least 3.5 metres wide, and around 1000 of these are at least 4 metres wide.

Garden micro-sites:


Many of the homes in Knowle West have 20+metre long back gardens. After mapping the total area of back gardens and setting a series of contours from the back of each home to retain some land for use as a private garden, the following developable garden space could be released:

Each home retains:

6m of private garden

31.3 Hectares of land is released

12m of private garden

18.4 Hectares of land is released

18m of private garden

10.2 Hectares of land is released



If just 10% of the potential gap and garden micro-sites were developed that would be more affordable housing than was delivered in Bristol in 2015/16.

Even at the lowest level of garden release, 10.2 hectares of land could accommodate up to 500 one-bedroom homes.

Bristol City Council has identified around 40 hectares for housing, primarily around the edges of Knowle West. These are larger plots (for 10+ homes) packaged for the conventional development industry. We Can Make does not seek to compete for these macro-sites. They are shown here for context.

could there be across the UK?

arden revolution


VI Design Rules for Citizen-Led Housing We Can Make seeks to re-mix the housing supply-chain and put the citizen at the heart of the development process. It proposes five essential components.


We asked residents in Knowle West if citizen-led micro-site homes are a good idea13: 90% Agree it’s a good idea for the neighbourhood

43% would be interested in putting in their money

73% Agree it’s a good idea for their street

36% would be interested in putting in their land 63% would be interested in putting in their time

1 Make the Community the Developer The bottom line for a commercial developer is that a development has to demonstrate to a bank that the project will deliver a 20% profit. The developer takes the risk and therefore takes the profit, and as a result affordable housing and community needs often get squeezed out. Putting citizens at the heart of investing in new housing by crowd-sourcing the capital - land, labour, and money - at community level means that instead of any development profit being removed it can be returned to the system as more affordable housing and a community dividend. This divident can be spent on shared priorities set by the community. For example, improving green spaces, funding community facilities, or supporting a youth worker.


2 Mobilise Self-Assembly Land Microsites - peppered amongst back gardens, wide corners and the gaps between buildings - are beyond the reach of the conventional development industry and even local authorities. Their small size, scattered distribution, and diverse ownerships takes them "off radar" or see themrejected as too tricky and expensive to develop. The citizen sector, however, can unlock these sites because it operates at the super-local level and is able to engage with people at point of need rather than speculatively. In Knowle West - like many communities - housing need is diverse and can be complicated, but our research identified four clear primary needs: Down Shifters, New Shoots, Better Fits, and Making Ends Meet. The mainstream housing industry has proved itself unwilling and/or incapable of recognising, let alone engaging with, people with these types of needs, whom it perceives to be "low value customers." Many of these people, however, bring with them significant knowhow and assets - including land. If development can meet their needs on their terms, citizens will want to opt-in - "YIMBY" (Yes In My Back Yard) development - literally. Following a market and community analysis, We Can Make suggests 350 citizen-led homes could be built in Knowle West. This would represent using just 10% of the potential micro-sites available and represents a 7% intensification of the neighbourhood. This could help up to 700 households, through the supply of new homes and releasing capacity in the existing stock. With 522 households in the area registered on HomeChoice, Bristol City Council’s housing waiting list, this represents a substantial new way of meeting housing need.


yes in my backyar d

Down Shifters Individuals or couples whose house is now too big for them and are looking for a smaller home. This could be because children have grown up and flown the nest, or they have changing mobility needs, or want to reduce costs in retirement.

New Shoots Families where there is an urgent need for more space, because children are growing up and seeking independence, are having offspring of their own, or caring responsibilities are expanding to include additional elderly or disabled family members.

Better Fits Families were one member or more is experiencing changing mobility needs and the family home needs to be adapted.

Making Ends Meet Individuals and families that need extra income and willing to swap space for rental income and/or reduced bills.


3 Create Collective Tools Access to technical and professional skills place a high overhead on new developments. It can seem a daunting and expensive process for any individual amateur to embark upon. However, a collective approach to identifying the physical, technical and design parameters across a particular community can help simplify and standardise, thereby reducing complexity, risk, and costs. In Knowle West, out of 5,000 homes, there are only 20 different types of houses. Knowing the potential development sites (garden and gap micro-sites), and the primary needs of residents (Down Shifters, New Shoots, Better Fits and Making Ends Meet) allows us to focus on suitable development interventions and bespoke types of new microsite homes. The guiding design rules can be embodied in a Community Design Code. This is a collective resource that can help simplify the design process and enhance the quality and character of the built environment. Such an approach can simplify development further by making it easier for construction providers to meet and engage with a market it would otherwise see as too low value to bother with. We Can Make explored how a community suppliers menu might work for Knowle West. Citizens would be able to choose from a menu of different designs supplied by different firms but which all complied with a Community Design Code and requirements such as affordability, local manufacture, local employment and sustainability.



Community Suppliers Menu: We Can Make invited a cross-section of different types and sizes of firms to design a home that could work in Knowle West to show the range that was possible and how potential suppliers could engage with community needs and opportunities. These included Wikihouse (a custom-build agency), White Design (established architecture practice), Bews Mews (a local construction firm), Barton Wilmore (a large commercial consultancy), and Barefoot Architecture (an emerging architecture practice).

Collective finance By acting collectively, a community can have greater financial strength through spanning the gap between the earning power of any one individual and the aggregate lending risk across a group. This means, for example, that through a collective approach We Can Make would be better able to secure lower-rate investment and debt finance than many individuals seeking finance alone. We have also explored how a community’s wider resources- time, skills and land- can be integrated into the financial asset base of the We Can Make approach. The legal and financial model underpinning this approach has been tested with banks and legal advisors and has received acceptance in terms of debt finance and potential investment.



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4 Localise the means of production Smart factories, digital fabrication technologies, new materials, and changes in distribution networks are among the changes that have the potential to radically democratise design and construction - including our homes and communities. This much heralded "fourth industrial revolution" is already generating new ways to make homes - from Persimmon’s automated housing factory in the Midlands that can pump out 10,000 homes a year, to Facit Homes, where the computer numerical cutting machine (CNC) that makes your new bespoke home comes to your site on the back of a truck. But how can these new "means of production" be held in the hands of the many rather than the few? And how they can be used to create the places communities want, rather than the non-places the market currently predominately supplies? We Can Make suggests that progressive answers to these questions can be found when we explore how new technologies and processes mesh with the existing knowhow and resources within communities.

To test how localising the production of new homes could work, We Can Make built a prototype home. Designed by White Design, the TAM is one example of the kind of home that could be delivered through the We Can Make approach. 38

A core objective of We Can Make is to maximise the use of local skills, labour and materials. We Can Make has begun to map the manufacturing capacity of Knowle West and the surrounding area. In contrast to common misconceptions South Bristol makes a huge range of things with lots of processes, materials and products relevant to home building or which could be adapted. These include local firms making caravans, windows, doors, carpets, aluminium frames, chassis, and scaffolding.

The panels for the We Can Make home were all built at a farm 3 miles away and constructed on a bespoke flatbed which ensured precision design. The flatbed was itself made at KWMC The Factory in Knowle West - a community-based digital fabrication space.

The flatpack kit to make the home was assembled in the grounds of Filwood Community Centre, right in the heart of Knowle West.

Local people were employed in the construction.

Artists Charlotte Biszewski and Alex Goodman worked with local residents to design and make the interiors, including blinds, cushions, furniture, and wall-paper.

Local residents and artists worked with KWMC The Factory to design and make furniture for the home.


5 And repeat The non-replicability of most community-led housing projects is one of the main factors preventing the sector from scaling. Once devoted enthusiasts have built their home they generally have little interest in repeating the experience. We Can Make has identified many of the hardware and software requirements (design, planning, finance, governance) to enable faster, cheaper and better homes to be made with and by the community. The approach has been developed to work with the specific needs and resources of Knowle West. However, because We Can Make has been careful to work within the existing regulatory, planning and technical landscape, the approach is designed to be replicable in other neighbourhoods. Knowle West is, in some ways, a typical inter-war housing estate, of which there are eight other similar estates in Bristol, and another 1,000,000-plus inter-war homes dotted across the UK in different estates. 41

VII Disruptive Innovation meeting needs in new ways


We Can Make seeks to create a new kind of housing delivery platform that is practical, scalable and disruptive. It does this by opening up access to affordable homes to a new population of citizens who have been critically ignored and failed by the mainstream housing supply industry. These homes were previously only accessible to consumers with a lot of money or specialised skill. We Can Make is geared to the needs of individuals and families and able to insert new housing at the point of need. An alternative to the all too dominant "demolish and densify" regeneration tactics of many areas, We Can Make acts as "urban acupuncture", enabling small-scale interventions in just right places that together have a catalytic social impact and transform the larger urban context. Harnessing the knowhow and resources of citizens and communities, We Can Make imagines a new kind of journey for people to access affordable housing. Here we begin to plot what a citizen-journey to access affordable housing might look and feel like, showing how both individuals and the wider community could benefit.


Citizen journey to access affordable housing NEW SHOOTS


Citizen journey to access affordable housing BETTER FITS


Citizen journey to access affordable housing MAKING ENDS MEET


Citizen journey to access affordable housing COMMUNITY DIVIDEND


VIII The Making of We Can Make


We Can Make created an open "test space", which over six months, brought together local people, artists, designers, policy-makers, academics and industry specialists to build a bottom-up understanding of housing needs and collaboratively explore new possibilities.


the process 1. ‘Housing’ identified as top community priority At KWMC’s 20th birthday party, which over 150 people attended, housing was identified as one of the biggest issues facing the community. October 2016

2. How do communities live, work and make? In-depth research led by University West of England’s Live Work Make Unit. A team of 16 graduate architecture students scope the possibilities of citizen-led housing, including a pop-up exhibition. October-December 2016

3. Deep diving in data Local residents, programmers, designers, data analysts and industry experts spend a day diving into data to find and explore new patterns, trends and insights into the issues shaping the experience of housing in Knowle West - from transport and employment, to planning policy and demographics. February 2017

4. Doorstep conversations Conversations and surveys with residents of Knowle West to map people’s housing needs, ideas and resources. February-April 2017

5. People’s stories of ‘home’ Artist Caitlin Sheperd interviews Knowle West residents about their experience of housing and home, building up a picture of housing need. The stories are integrated and form part of a sound installation about home. February- April 2017


6. Collective acts of making Artist Charlotte Biszewski creates a Mobile Wall Paper Making Machine that tours the streets of Knowle West inviting residents to have a household object captured as a cyanotype image and contribute to a Knowle West Wall Paper Collection. Treasured possessions from wartime medals to a favourite toy feature in the wall paper. March- May 2017

7. Community prototyping A pop-up event on a street in Knowle West inviting people to build their dream home and explore different ways of responding to housing needs. March 2017

8. Re-thinking regulation Hands-on workshop with residents, planners, academics and architects to explore how make the planning system can better support citizen-led housing. March 2017

9. Mapping the barriers to citizen-led housing Workshop with WikiHouse Foundation to explore barriers to citizen-led housing. May 2017

10. Designing for local manufacture & assembly Workshop to explore how to design for more local manufacture and assembly of housing. June 2017


11. Making the "made in Knowle West" home Works begins on building the first prototype We Can Make home - the TAM, designed by White Design and built by ModCell. The parts are made on a farm 3 miles away and then brought to Filwood Community Centre in the heart of Knowle West to be assembled. Local people are employed as part of the construction team. June- August 2017

12. Mapping Knowle West’s assets Hands-on workshop with residents and local organisations to map Knowle West’s diverse assets in the past, present, and future. June 2017

13. Fitting out the "made in Knowle West" home Artists Charlotte Biszewski and Alex Goodman work with local people and local materials to make the fittings and furnishing for the prototype home, including bespoke wallpaper, tiles and curtains. The dyes are made using the flora of Knowle West. KWMC The Factory works with artists and local people to design and make furniture for the home using digital fabrication tools. July- August 2017

14. House-Warming Party House-warming party for the prototype We Can Make home. 400 people visit over the opening weekend and 70 local people sign-up to stay in the home. September 2017

15. Feeling at Home Local residents try out living in the We Can Make home to find out what it’s like and give feedback about the design and We Can Make process. September-October 2017


Garry local resident I’m a heating and plumbing engineer and l ived in Knowle West since I was 6 years old. I was employed as part of the construction team. I’ve learnt so much on this project- done everything from tiling to being a chippy. I’ve loved working with all the new materials and products. I’ve got more knowledge and skills. It’s not just a local job it’s created, it’s a new local business. Before this, I would never have had the confidence to set up on my own. Now I’m all set up, got a van, registered and everything. I’m set up for life.



local resident

local resident

I loved staying in the house. It was so cosy and warm. The design is a bit different. But life is dynamic and we should look for ways to improve things. When most of the houses in Knowle West were build- before the war I think, sustainability and eco-things were not important. Now the time has come for the world and for Knowle West to be more sustainable.

We sat out with the patio doors open until late last night. And it was so peaceful. I slept like a baby. You’ve got everything you need in there. I like my space, and the space there is really well thought out.

There are lots of new families, older people, bachelors who need a home- just a modest space. This could help them get going. My plan is to have petite house in my garden that I can stay in and then I can rent out my house. That will sort out my retirement. At the moment I have a three bedroom house. It’s too big for me. And so many people are looking for accommodation, it will be good if I can rent it out to a family that needs it but still know I have somewhere for me to stay.

I can really see it working for older people looking to downsize, or families starting out. If I could have started with one of these houses that would be amazing. It’s such a clever concept. And what if you could do all the little sites in Knowle West? That would be 1000 families you’d be helping. There’s no chance of council houses being built. And otherwise it’s so called affordable houses that no one can afford. With this we’ve got a fighting chance.


IX the future is now


We Can Make is developing a practical development and delivery programme with Knowle West, and which can then be replicated in other cities and neighbourhoods. The We Can Make approach will not be the answer for every community facing housing need. However, it offers a potentially significant contribution to helping diversify the UK’s critically flawed and failing housing supply-system, working with citizens to create new affordable housing at point of need.






If you would like to find out more or be part of We Can Make, please contact wecanmake@kwmc.org.uk or call 0117 903 0444.

Acknowledgements We Can Make developed from an ongoing collaboration between Knowle West Media Centre, White Design and the Department of Architecture and the Built Environment at University of the West of England (UWE). The partners have been working together on live projects in Knowle West for the past four years. We Can Make is a collaborative project and only possible with generous help and creative spirit of many people and organisations.

♼ A heartfelt thanks goes to: Iboyla Freher for photographing and capturing the project from its inception. Joseph Ball for documenting the hidden manufacturing landscape of South Bristol. Chris Rydlewski and Emelie Sandy for additional photography and noticing the un-noticed. Hywel George for beautiful shots of the prototype home. Caitlin Sheperd (www.caitlinshepherd.com), Charlotte Biszewski (www.charlottebiszewski.com) and Alex Goodman (www.hope-anchor.co.uk) for their "art as collaboration" ethic and practice. June McNeil, Denise Britt, Jo Southard, and Anne Smith at Community in Partnership and everyone at Filwood Community Centre for being the most hospitable of hosts and collaborators. The open, resourceful and passionate residents of Knowle West, including, Don Jones, Bob Fisher, Ken Jones, June Pamela, Bernadette Fothergill, Leanne, Jack, Lyn and Mike Kelly, Feme Olyisade, Tim Jones, Jim Smith, Len Wyatt, Pixie Lott, Gail Bevan, Jean Mills, Derek Thomas, Viv Corbin, Maria Omiga, Wendy Purnell, Anita Moore, Maria Davey, Paul Jenking, Mike Eddy, Vera Collins, Jade Chubb, Rhiannon Lowes, Hayley Edwards, Jessica Fry, Sammie Jarret, Kayleigh Hunt, and Becky Mills. Jamie Innes-Wilkin, Ellie Losata, Elliott Ballam, Chris Trant, Ben Mitchell, Roxanne Townsend, Matt Clegg Smith, Alex Chacko, Emily Chappelle, Jessica Bettesworth, Tom Gibson, and Jess Linington- the industrious and ingenious team that was Live Work Make 2016-17. Councilor Paul Smith and Chris Jackson at Bristol City Council for their early support and championing of the project. Dave Hunter and Ed Roweberry at Bristol & Bath Regional Capital for their on point strategic advice. Roger Davies and Dave Core at BACS for crunching the numbers for us. Colin Taylor, Ruth Deakin-Crick, Shaofu Huang, Ges Rosenberg and Eli Hatleskog at University of Bristol for their commitment to going beyond business as usual.


ĂŞ The many individuals who offered invaluable help and advice along the way, including: Chris Brown, Alastair Parvin, Matthew Farrow, Sarah McQuatt, Cyprian Boateng, Jess Leigh, Robert Orrett, Tim Southgate, Paul Sylvester, Emily Price, Stuart Phelps, Kev Kirkland, Jenny Ford, Andy Reeve, Clayton Prest, Oona Goldsworthy, Helen Bone, Jackson Moulding, Keith Cowling, Rose Seagrief, Jonathan Lewis, Andrew Bewley, Sam Goss, Rob Hankey, Duncan Boa, Tom Macklen, Claire Wilks, Simon Prescott, Fiona Mullins, Mark Baker, and Andy Robb. The construction team: Tom Barnes, Fiona Dowling, Charles Gamble, Mark Jenkins, Simon Morris, Garry Dart and Ray Johnston, KWMC The Factory (www.kwmc.org.uk/thefactory/) White Design (www.white-design.com), ModCell (www.modcell.com) and Coobio - Compressed Straw Board (www.coobio.com) The construction sponsors: Arnold Laver Flooring (www.laver.co.uk), Mereway Kitchens (www.merewaykitchens.co.uk), Base (www.basestructures.com), and Ablectrics (www.electricsandlighting.co.uk) The construction suppliers: Jewson Builders Merchant (www.jewson.co.uk), James Jones and Sons, iBeams (www.jamesjones.co.uk), Charles Ransford and Son Larch Cladding (www.ransfords.co.uk), and Business Electrical M&E Installation (www.businesselectrical.co.uk)

Artwork & Images Cover image by Eleanor Lasota p.4 Quote by June Pamela, Knowle West resident, interviewed as part of "Home", 2017, by Caitlin Sheperd. Images from when Knowle West was first built in the 1920s and 1930s, designed on garden city principles. p.6-7 Images of Knowle West today. Photography by Chris Rydlewski, Emelie Sandy, and Iboyla Freher. p.8-9 Extracts from "Home" a sound and image installation by Caitlin Sheperd, and extracts from The Knowle West Wallpaper Collection by Charlotte Biszewski. p.10-11 Portraits of local residents and participants in We Can Make. Photography by Iboyla Freher. p.60-61 Images of the often overlooked makers and manufacturing landscape on South Bristol. Photography by Josesph Ball.


p.62-63 Images of the making of We Can Make including the construction of the TAM and co-design with local people. Photography by Iboyla Freher. p.64-65 The Knowle West Wallpaper Collection made with local residents with the Mobile Wallpaper Making Machine. Cyanotype print by Charlotte Biszewski 2017. p.66-67 Images of the prototype home. The TAM by White Design is one example of the kind of citizen-led housing that We Can Make could deliver. Photography by Iboyla Freher and Hywel George.

REFERENCES 1. Scaling the Citizen Sector, by Alastair Parvin and Andy Reeve. Medium, 2016. 2. Statistical bulletin: Housing affordability in England and Wales: 1997 to 2016, Office for National Statistics. March 2017 https://www.ons.gov.uk/peoplepopulationandcommunity/housing/bulletins/housingaffordabilityinenglandandwales/ 1997to2016#effect-of-workplace-based-and-residence-based-earnings-on-housing-affordability 3. House of Commons Briefing Paper Number 06784, Self-build and custom-build housing (England), by Wendy Wilson. Parliament, March 2017 https://researchbriefings.parliament.uk/ResearchBriefing/Summary/SN06784 4. The History of Council Housing, University of the West of England, 2008. https://fet.uwe.ac.uk/conweb/house_ages/council_housing/print.htm 5. Garden Cities of Tomorrow, by Ebenezer Howard. S. Sonnenschein & Co. 1902 6. Housing Estates: A study of Bristol Corporation Policy and Practice between the wars, by Rosamond Jevons and John Madge. Bristol University, J W Arrowsmith, 1949. 7. Bristol Residential Development Survey Report. Bristol City Council, 2016 https://www.bristol.gov.uk/documents/20182/34184/RDSReportWholeFinal.pdf/20c3e127-c3d6-4de6-bf13-374b3dc792da 8. Census results population and household estimates for small areas. Bristol City Council, 2011 https://www.bristol.gov.uk/documents/20182/34008/2011%20Census%20-%20Population%20and%20household%20estimates%20for%20 small%20areas.pdf/14c400f5-2274-4478-8a07-50a17fa06926


9. Better Neighbourhoods: making higher densities work. CABE, 2005. http://webarchive.nationalarchives.gov.uk/20110118185901/http://www.cabe.org.uk/files/better-neighbourhoods.pdf 10. Home Choice, Bristol City Council’s official waiting list. Accessed on 12/6/17. 11. All planning applications made in Knowle West and Clifton between 2010 and 2014 were compared. Data accessed via Bristol City Council Open Data Portal. Accessed 16/03/2017 https://opendata.bristol.gov.uk/Land-Use/Geocoded-Planning-Applications2010-2014/j79s-8zhn/ data 12. Door-to-door survey with local residents on sample streets in Knowle West undertaken February to April 2017. 13. cf: Door-to-door survey with local residents on sample streets in Knowle West undertaken February to April 2017. 14. cf: Home Choice, Bristol City Council’s official waiting list. Accessed on 12/6/17









We Can Make: civic innovations in housing by Melissa Mean, Craig White and Eleanor Lasota with Jamie Innes-Wilkin and Martha King

Knowle West Media Centre is an arts centre, founded in 1996 and rooted in the community of Knowle West, Bristol. KWMC works across different disciplines using art and technology to address issues including health, housing, and smart cities. As a "living lab" KWMC fosters civic innovation by collaborating with residents, artists, cities, business and academia to support people to make positive change and explore new ways of living better together. As part of its programme, KWMC runs a community-based digital fabrication space- The Factory. This innovation space trains local people and develops new products and services responding to community needs and generates knowledge that is shared with other cities across the UK and beyond. White Design is an innovative and award winning chartered architects practice and sustainability consultancy. They are a part of the new carbon economy, providing practical, affordable and beautiful solutions that allow us all to live, work and learn more sustainably. Based in Bristol, their experience in community led architecture is extensive. In particular, co-housing and intentional communities including, for example, the LILAC cohousing project in Leeds. We Can Make is a case study as part of the Research Councils and Innovate UK funded Urban ID programme of research led by Bristol University. Urban ID is exploring how critical urban challenges can be better addressed to create more resilient, healthy, prosperous and sustainable cities.

Contact: wecanmake@kwmc.org.uk


We Can Make is a new citizen-led approach to creating affordable homes where and when they are needed. Developed in Knowle West Bristol, the approach is replicable and scalable across the UK.


: K WM