White Hill Design Studio LLP is an award-winning Scottish-based architectural design consultancy.

As certified PassivHaus designers and Permaculture practitioners, we specialise in sustainable, affordable and ecological buildings. We can help you build affordable homes, fit for the future.

We work most frequently in the leisure and residential sectors, and on ‘green’ building projects, including autonomous Earthship dwellings and alternative construction methods such as straw bale. We have wide experience of Listed Building refurbishments, especially for the hotel and leisure sectors.

We’ve delivered projects across many different market sectors in Scotland and elsewhere in the UK. Our clients include commercial developers and private clients as well as community groups and statutory organisations.

We also offer community facilitation and engagement processes.

For us, design is about more than just the built form – it involves how a building connects to its surroundings and the people who use it and experience it. In our designs, we seek to capture and express a ‘sense of place’. In this we are inspired by the Scottish landscape – especially the beautiful Annan Water valley in Dumfries and Galloway where our practice is based – and the work of design practitioners like Christopher Alexander.

Contact us today to discuss how we can help you realise your project.

There is one timeless way of building. It is a thousand years old, and the same today as it has ever been. The great traditional buildings of the past, the villages and tents and temples in which man feels at home, have always been made by people who were very close to the centre of this way.

It is not possible to make great buildings, or great towns, beautiful places, places where you feel yourself, places where you feel alive, except by following this way. And, as you will see, this way will lead anyone who looks for it to buildings which are themselves as ancient in their form, as the trees and hills, and as our faces are.

Christopher Alexander, The Timeless Way of Building

Our Approach


White Hill Design Studio LLP has focussed on sustainability and ecological design since we launched in 1997. We’d been active in green issues for many years before that and were keen to ensure that our designs and work made a positive environmental impact where possible. We aim to provide our clients with environmentally aware and innovative design solutions that achieve high quality, affordable buildings that are deeply sustainable. We try to do this without significantly increasing build costs for the developer and with year-on-year benefits to the end user and the environment. Our projects encourage sustainability primarily through form and fabric rather than technical (and often expensive) ‘green’ solutions.

Designing for Vibrant Communities

Though architecture is the main area of our portfolio, from the beginning, we have been involved with a diverse range of projects, moving beyond formal architecture into landscape and Permaculture design and community involvement. We consider how a building connects to its surroundings and the people who use it and experience it, allowing us to work with interiors, landscapes and community. We seek to capture and express a ‘sense of place’ and to create buildings that feel just right – spaces where people feel at home.

Healthy Homes

The development of healthy homes – natural, beautiful environments which minimise chemical inputs and maximise the use of natural materials – is also important to us. We have worked with self-build clients for whom the creation of safe, organic environments has been a key objective. With the need for so many affordable new homes in the near future, there’s also a great opportunity to create low impact, sustainable, health-promoting volume housing – good for the bodies, souls and pockets of future inhabitants!

Future Proofing

White Hill Design Studio LLP is starting to explore the design and development of ‘power down alternatives’ – houses and localities which allow people to manage the transition from current lifestyles into something more sustainable, where people and communities can meet as many of their needs as possible from within their local area.


David Major


David has been a Chartered Architect since 1986, working in private practice in Manchester through the peak of the 1980s development boom and then in the public sector, before establishing White Hill Design Studio in 1997.

He has extensive experience of project management, critical path programming and project design as well as a wide-ranging portfolio of development projects from the private, community and public sector.

Since 1992, he has been actively involved in the developing sustainability agenda. David is an experienced and certified PassivHaus designer and has trained and researched extensively into very low energy building methods.

Nicholas Major

Research Engineer

Nicholas is currently studying Mechanical Engineering at Strathclyde University in Glasgow and writing his dissertation on energy in PassivHaus design.

As part of the White Hill Design Studio team, he is in charge of researching how innovation and technology can help us create truly low energy, low consumption buildings for a more sustainable future.

Jane Gray

Sustainability Director

Jane managed collaborative projects between the public and private sector before moving to local government. There she worked in local economic development projects, co-ordinated a successful bid for regional European funding, developed the Agenda 21 policy and programme at regional level, and introduced Community Horizons – a community development process based on future search techniques.

She has considerable experience of rural economic development, of community processes and of the social, economic and environmental aspects of sustainability.

Catherine Major

Design Guru

Catherine is our in-house web and graphic designer. She is trained in community arts practice and has a range of skills in visual arts and crafts, performance and storytelling.

She also creates small scale structures and buildings, usually working with natural materials and landscape features. This year’s projects include an outdoor amphitheatre and the development of a permaculture farm at Meikleholmside.

At White Hill Design Studio, Catherine also takes care of administration, branding and social media.


Home Farm, St Anns

View Project

Helping It Happen Awards 2018 (Scottish Land & Estates)

Winner of the Rural Housing Award.

Dormont Park PassivHaus

View Project

Scottish Homes Awards 2012

Winner of the Rural Development of the Year
Highly Commended in the Environmental Excellence Award
See the full list here

Green Apple Awards 2011

Silver Environmental Award for the Built Environment

Green Apple Awards 2012

Bronze Award in Small Business category (awarded to Dormont Estate)

Royal Institute of Chartered Surveyors Awards 2012

Commended for Design & Innovation

Municipal Terrace, Dumfries

Refurbishment and alterations to 4 flats for Dumfries & Galloway Housing Partnership, specifically using a host of environmentally friendly technologies in order that they could be used as a benchmark for future developments.

Green Apple Awards 2010

For the Built Environment & Architectural Heritage


VIDEO: Save your Energy, BBC2 Scotland

VIDEO: Hungarian visit to local renewable energy projects

Dumfries and Galloway Council welcomed 12 people from south west Hungary for a second knowledge exchange study tour, as part of ‘100% Renewable Energy Source Communities’ – a region-wide sustainable energy project which is co-ordinated nationally by Community Energy Scotland.

Watch Video>>

CASE STUDY: Scottish Government, Inspirational Designs

Click to read the Scottish Government Inspirational Ideas case studyDormont Park is a development of 8 new 2 and 3 bedroom houses built, and certified to the very exacting PassivHaus standard for long term affordable private rent. Part funded by the Scottish Government’s Rural Homes for Rent pilot grant scheme, the houses can reasonably claim to be the lowest energy multi-unit housing development in Scotland.

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CASE STUDY: Scottish Land & Estates, Affordable Housing

Click to read the Scottish Land & Estates case studyAlthough Jamie Carruthers can trace his family’s roots back to 1552 on the Dormont Estate, near Lockerbie, his focus today is on developing a new generation of affordable rented property that will set the environmental standards for the future. Having already installed ground source heat pumps in two of the estate cottages, taking energy efficiency to the highest possible level was the logical next step.

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