The Asset Transfer Unit commissioned The Glass-House to carry out research on community buildings around the country that had undergone a refurbishment process, and to extract learning that could help groups taking over buildings through the asset transfer process.

Project date: 2010

The Story

In 2008, The Glass-House was invited to join the Asset Transfer Unit Stakeholder Forum, the advisory group to the Asset Transfer Unit (ATU), funded by the Department for Communities and Local Government and coordinated by the Development Trusts Association. The ATU raised awareness and provided practical support for the transfer of assets from public to community ownership.

While on the ATU Stakeholder Forum, The Glass-House identified a gap in the support being provided to communities taking on buildings and having to manage a refurbishment process. We were keen to ensure that groups taking on the ownership and management of buildings for community benefit were prepared both to assess whether the buildings in question were the right buildings in the right place, and to use design effectively to transform the buildings for new uses.

In 2010, working with the Asset Transfer Unit, we developed a project to address this gap and to produce a design resource to inform and inspire groups taking on a building.

Working with Glass-House Enabler architect Stephen Smith, we visited 10 community buildings around the country that had undergone refurbishment, delivering workshops that engaged current users and managers of the buildings as well as those who had led the refurbishment process. The workshops explored their design journey, and how the design process and decisions made during the refurbishment had affected how the building was working. We collected examples of good design, key learning points and top tips for other groups. We also provided each group visited with independent design advice on how to further improve their buildings.


The wealth of learning that we collected during the research formed the basis of a new resource – Making Buildings Work for Your Community: Design, Refurbishment and Retrofit – which was published in 2010.

This resource has been widely circulated by The Glass-House, Asset Transfer Unit and partners, in print and digital format, and has provided a useful starting point for many groups involved in or considering the management of a building for community use.

This booklet helped to inform and inspire our EXPLORE DESIGN website developed as part of the Empowering Design Practices project.


Guide: Making Buildings Work for Your Community: Design, Refurbishment and Retrofit

Discover: EXPLORE DESIGN a highly visual website that will help you to explore and understand the design of community buildings through ten themes.