Hjaltland feature in National Construction Magazine

April 30th 2013

The Associations Property Services Manager Paul leask was recently interviewed for a Feature on Hjaltland for the National Construction Magazine issue 107. (below is the full article taken from the publication)


AWARD winning Housing Association, Hjaltland, is currently midway through the construction of 65 new properties over three different sites throughout Shetland.

The Association was not only successful in its bid to the Scottish Government for grant assistance through the ‘Innovation & Investment Fund’ (IIF) but gained essential support from the Shetland Islands Council who provided funding for capitalised interest and match funding for the successful IIF bid.

This is one example of the good partnerships forged by the Association with external agencies for the benefit of the local community as a whole. Other partnership working has seen the Association provide for a Crèche, a Childrens Home, Core & Cluster accommodation for ‘Independent Living Project’ and the completion of several supported houses and flats for varying needs. Other partnership working includes operating a joint waiting list with the Council and a nomination arrangement that ensures that at least 50 per cent of all lets go to homeless applicants.

“The over-arching guiding principle for Hjaltland is the constant improvement in its service to its customers whilst giving value for money,” says the Association’s Property Services Manager Paul Leask.


Hjaltland Housing Association is the result of a merger in 1980 between two earlier 'Fair Rent' Associations; Scottish Airports Ltd, formed in 1974, and Hjaltland Housing Association Ltd formed in 1975. Both had aims of assisting the Shetland Islands Council in providing housing for incoming workers.

Until 1984 agents based in Edinburgh carried out the Association’s administration. Part-time local staff managed lettings visits and day to day maintenance. In the period up to 1982 the Association provided 88 houses that were mainly family houses. In 1984 the management Committee carried out a review of their organisation. They decided that an improved service was possible using local full-time staff.

Since then Hjaltland has built over 550 houses throughout the Islands for both general needs and supported accommodation. Most of the housing has been provided in Lerwick and the central area of Shetland where housing demand is highest. The Association now provides homes in nearly all the major settlements and the largest islands in Shetland.


As Shetland’s voluntary, independent housing agency Hjaltland aims to provide quality housing for people in housing need at an affordable price. This commitment extends to assisting those who have special needs. The Association is committed to ensuring that a wide range of tenure choice is available. There is a firm commitment to working closely with the local authority to ensure that housing is available in all parts of Shetland.

The Association also acts as an agent for the Local Authority with a One Stop Shop service providing minor repairs and adaptations to private properties as well addressing fuel poverty issues.

The Association is also a Registered Factor providing a range of services including reactive & lifecycle maintenance, estate management and gardening services to home owners.


Hjaltland Housing Association Ltd is devoted to ensuring the provision of quality housing in Shetland to people with housing need. Membership is open as of right to Hjaltland tenants. Membership is also open to other people residing in Shetland who are interested in housing. The Association is a Friendly Society registered under the Industrial and Provident Societies Act 1965 with the Financial
Services Authority and is registered with, and its activities supervised by, the Scottish Housing Regulator as a Registered Social landlord. This means that Hjaltland is able to obtain grant from the Scottish Government’s to build houses.

The Association also became a Registered Scottish Charity in 2001. This was to protect its houses from the Right to Buy, in order to ensure that social housing at an affordable rent remains available in Shetland. A Management Committee of up to fifteen people, formed from the membership, controls the work of the Association.


Hjaltland centres on providing quality services and housing for the local community, with a particular to focus to people in need.

“Our location, an island in the middle of the North Sea, is one thing that sets us apart from others but I think there is a wealth of really good work done by the Housing Association movement throughout Britain, including within the wider community, and would suggest we are no different,” explains Paul.

The Association takes a holistic view to the services it provides and we have a number of partnerships with external agencies in place which benefit not only our tenants but the wider community. From supporting apprenticeships through our development process, to work experience for vulnerable adults with partner agencies, to setting up the HUB Project providing temporary accommodation for youngsters and an activity centre to learn the skills needed for independent living, the Association is heavily involved in the wider community.

We currently employ twenty eight members of staff including two “men-with-a-van” providing maintenance services to tenant’s houses and minor adaptations to houses throughout Shetland, and four part-time staff providing warden, estate support services and office cleaning.

In addition to the substantial social change brought about by Hjaltland, they do not lose site of the wider environment. The Association build predominately timber kit, timber clad houses with under-floor heating pipes in a solid floor construction. They have an enhanced insulation detail which removes any thermal bridging and reduces air leakage to very low levels. Whole House Ventilation with heat recovery is then installed to provide the necessary air-changes. The recovered heat from the ventilation system is then transferred to the gas in a heat pump, fresh incoming air or both depending on what system is in place. This type of construction provides a very efficient and clean living environment and has a low carbon footprint due to the extensive use of sustainable timber. The external cladding then forms part of the lifecycle maintenance programme and is painted regularly. This helps sustain local jobs in the maintenance industry and also results in the scheme looking brand new every six years which in turn makes the scheme sustainable as desirable place to live.

Hjaltland is not only looking at innovative ways of building highly efficient new houses but also trying to improve the quality and efficiency of their older stock. The Association is part of the ‘North Isles New Energy Solutions’ (NINES) project with SSE and are in the process of installing new highly efficient Dimplex Quantum heaters and hot water cylinders in 235 properties. “The new heaters have the potential to provide up to a 20 per cent saving against a traditional storage heater system and will assist our tenants in reducing their on-going energy use. There is also a wider community benefit to this project; SSE will be able to manage the local network in a more efficient way because of a new charging regime and the storage capacity provided by the new heaters and hot water cylinders” which will result in more renewable power being allowed onto the local electricity grid, says Paul.


“There are individual staff milestones on a regular basis as a result of all the hard work put in by our small team who constantly improve and adapt to all the challenges we are facing in the current economic and political climates,” asserts Paul, “There are also a few formal milestones such as the Association gaining the Investors in People Bronze award last year, reaching 500 properties the year before, winning the Saltire Award for one of our first new schemes back in 1982 to name but a few. In more recent times gaining national recognition through the RIAS and Saltire Awards for our schemes at Grodians and Da Vadill, is testament to all the hard work put in by our staff, design teams and local contractors working together to achieve positive outcomes for the local community”


Da Vadill

Richard Gibson Architects,

W A Fairhurst & Partners Engineers,

John Duguid Partnership QS,

John Duguid Partnership CDM Coordinator.

Contractor: DITT Construction Ltd

Shortlisted for the Inverness Architectural Association ‘Best Building’ Award 2012.

Winner of the Saltire Society Design Award for small Housing Developments 2012.

Winner of the Inverness Architectural Association ‘New Building’ Award 2012.

Da Vadill Text from the Shetland Architectural Society website:

16 terraced housing to fit the natural curvature of the brown-field site. Initially designed as a car-free development, the scheme was amended to provide a car park. The curved terrace strengthens the street line and provides energy and cost efficient housing inherent to terraced buildings. Natural and sustainable materials were used throughout such as slate roofing, masonry walls and floors and Siberian larch cladding providing long life performance and are ultimately recyclable. Untreated larch cladding reduces the clients painting maintenance next to a busy road and masonry walls and floors address sound pollution between flats. Flats are entered from within the terrace curve providing shelter and a sense of enclosure. Small balconies incorporate rainwater harvesting to sustain the planters. District heating was used for heating and hot water.


Richard Gibson Architects,

Mott MacDonald Engineers,

John Duguid Partnership QS,

Michael Thomson CDM Coordinator.

Contractor: E&H Building Contractors

Commendation for the Saltire Society Design Award for Large Housing Developments 2012.

Winner of the Inverness Architectural Association ‘Place Making’ Award 2012.

Winner / RIAS 2012 Awards.

Special Mention / 2012 RIAS Andrew Doolan 'Best Building in Scotland' award!

Regional Finalist / Civic Trust Awards.

Grodians Text from the Shetland Architectural Society website:

34 new-build social houses for Hjaltland Housing Association. Recently completed, the scheme is based on the Home Zone concept where the car is subsidiary to the pedestrian. The distinct houses are designed to provide a variation of 1-4 bedroom dwellings to a high standard of energy performance, assisted by a district heating scheme. A very low caron footprint of at least 15% beyond the latest Building Standards requirements has been achieved. The colour scheme intended to remain vibrant and cheerful during the darker winter months of the year.

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