Comielaw Farm Steading Conversion

Built with local life and tradition in mind

Comielaw Farm Steading Conversion

Konishi Gaffney for the Balcaskie Estate, East Neuk of Fife

This is a 1,200m2 alteration and extension of an 19th century B-listed rural steading to form 12 workshops, studios and light industrial units.

Traditional farm steadings, of which this estate has 16, are generally no longer viable for productive modern farming methods. Used for ad-hoc storage, steadings like these tend to slowly rot away through lack of use and there are few options for their future survival. Residential conversion helps maintain the structure but undermines the community. The estate decided to convert the steadings into small commercial workshops and studios to provide affordable employment space that is essential if people are to live and work in the rural community.

The existing buildings have been patched and improved; insulated, waterproofed and wired to current building standards with a shared biomass heating system; the newly constructed shed is subservient to this main structure. Materials are sympathetic and original with traditional techniques, such as coal tar paint, and local artisan skills used where possible.

Current use sees 10 different micro-businesses all sharing space, technology and infrastructure and collaborating to support each other. Low rents – and so returns (around 4%) – in rural sites mean this venture was not a commercial opportunity but is supported by other activities in the estate business. Construction was phased and let in sections to small local contractors, further supporting the local community and economy.