Edinburgh, Fife & East Scotland

The Portobello man who built a tenement for his family

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Media captionWould you share building costs with neighbours to build your dream home?

A man who built his own tenement claims it is more affordable than people might think, and has highlighted the benefits of self-building.

Architect John Kinsley lives in a tenement block he built for himself in Edinburgh with three other families.

His modern block sits among the traditional sandstone tenements of the Portobello street where he lives.

The four families - who pooled their borrowing power, totalling £900,000 - and now live in their own designs.

The idea to self-build came to Mr Kinsley after reading about the concept.

Once he had identified a suitable site, in this case a piece of wasteland, he found another three families to bring on board.

Image caption The new building was constructed on a patch of waste ground between more traditional sandstone buildings

With their joint funds they built their own bespoke tenement to meet the requirements of each family.

Mr Kinsley thinks there is an appetite for bespoke homes.

"A lot of people are frustrated with what is out there at the moment," he said.

"A lot of the product from the big housebuilders is the same, a little bit dull...

"The opportunity to be able to build their own place, unique to what they specifically want and potentially even be able to save a bit of money while doing that - because there's no house builder or developer taking a big chunk of profit out of the building - is obviously a big attraction."

The Kinsley family home was built to their specifications - to suit parents who work from home, and two student sons.

Image caption John Kinsley and his family live in the tenement flat that he designed and had built

Its innovative build was quick, and by cutting out a housebuilder the families of this tenement say they have achieved a custom-built house without the price tag a similar home would attract from a major housebuilder.

Mr Kinsley told BBC Scotland his view was that cutting out the housebuilder or property developer was a good way of keeping costs down.

He said: "One of the big advantages of working in a collective way like this is that the profit that a big housebuilder would take out of the project isn't added to the cost of the purchase price of the flat, so effectively the flats are bought at cost."

Built in nine days

The build was also relatively quick compared with a conventional project.

The kit was put together on site in nine days by three joiners. It used a very strong plywood, with no frame - built in Spain. Mr Kinsley told the BBC this allowed them to save on labour costs.

He said: "We used a system called cross-laminated timber which enabled them to build quickly. We went from ground-floor concrete slab to third-floor roof slab in nine days with three joiners."

And the build means some costs can be kept low, too. For example, the house is so well insulated that the only installed heater is the towel rail in the bathroom.

"It's very, very highly insulated and it's airtight so the gains that we get from things like washing machines, fridges and computers are enough to keep it ticking over in terms of heat so we don't need a conventional central heating system," he said.

Image caption The new build is said to be so well insulated it does not need a conventional central heating system

Architect Malcolm Fraser has worked on developments of new housing estates, and he said the priorities of some housebuilders were wrong.

He told BBC Scotland that a standard housebuilder focused too much on "frilly bits" to make homes look traditional, rather than the design of homes and the functionality of new build housing estates as a whole.

But Nicola Barclay, of Homes for Scotland, said the public were happy with the new build houses on offer. She said: "When you're buying new build you get exactly the plot you want, the design of house that you want, the number of bedrooms you want.

"You get to choose everything form the style of kitchen to the tiles in your bathroom and that's what so many people love about new builds - you can get to choose all these design features."

What are the flats like inside?

Image caption Consideration on how to use the space to live was a key factor in kitting out the interior
Image caption The four tenement flat owners made an individual decision on where their kitchens should be situated
Image caption In one of the flats the kitchen runs along a wall incorporating ladder accessible cupboards
Image caption A system called cross-laminated timber enabled the building to be constructed quicker
Image caption The opportunity to incorporate a sea view was taken in the design of the tenement

BBC Scotland's business and economy editor Douglas Fraser is looking at the state of the housing market on radio, TV and online.