*Repost from 2017*

One of our residents is a keen upholsterer and last year, after using some beautiful fabrics, many of them already sourced from ends of rolls, she started to wonder what to do with the small offcuts.

By happy coincidence a friend introduced her to the idea of Furoshiki and gave her a copy of ‘How to be a craftivist‘ in the same week she read about the problems that glitter and metallic paper cause for recycling centres, and an idea bubbled up for some craftivism.

Metallic and glittered papers may add a sparkle under the tree but pose a challenge for recycling. Metallic paper has to be picked out of the conveyor belts, adding to the costs of handling the waste. Glittery paper is more likely to be missed by the pickers, and ends up reducing the quality of the output, and with it the options for its use. Ultimately this adds to the cost of recycling or to the costs of the products that are made from recycled paper.

With all this in mind, a small group of volunteers made fabric wrapping to gift in our communities. We made and gave out wraps and fabric pouches made from off-cuts of fabric to 50 households in Hockerton and to the congregation of the Methodist Church in Southwell, our local market town. These gifts were given along with a letter explaining why, and a guide to their use from the Japanese Ministry of the Environment (see below). This is the essence of ‘craftivism’, that messages can be enclosed with useful and hopefully beautiful hand-made gifts, to remove the idea of criticism and instead surprise and hopefully bring a smile to faces whilst delivering a meaningful message.

Fabric wraps are not the only way to reduce the challenge to the recycling centres this Christmas. We can also use paper that is both recycled and recyclable; use ribbon that can be used year after year; and of course reuse paper. Surely it’s not just me whose only memory of my father with an iron is when he used to save and iron the wrapping paper on Christmas Day?!

Date posted: December 19, 2018 | Author: | No Comments »

Categories: Sustainable living

Hockerton Housing Project in Nottinghamshire is celebrating its 20th anniversary this year. To mark the occasion it welcomed the Chairman of Newark and Sherwood District Council, Councillor Keith Walker, to unveil a plaque commemorating the legacy of the three parties. The Project would not have got out of the ground without an enlightened landowner, pioneering architects and a visionary local authority, and it is their legacy that Hockerton Housing Project is celebrating this week with representatives from local business and the local authority.

The homes at Hockerton Housing Project (HHP) use 20% of the energy used by a similar-sized house built at the same time, for the same price. There is no loss of comfort.  Instead of fossil-fuelled central heating the homes are built to absorb heat from the sun over the Summer and early Autumn, which is then released over the winter.  This keeps the homes cool in summer and warm in winter. Air quality is maintained through the use of heat-recovery ventilation and water heating costs are reduced through the use of a thermal store.

By reducing the energy demands of the homes, the Project is then able to meet much of its remaining energy demand through onsite wind turbines and solar PV. This idea caught on in its wider community. In 2009, the parish of Hockerton invited the trading arm of HHP to manage the installation and management of a community-owned wind turbine. This now generates power equivalent to that used by the village and raises funds for the sustainable development in the community. As a pioneer of community energy HHP has since run a range of courses and support services for communities and land-owners installing and maintaining community-scale systems.

These ongoing and expanding benefits would not have happened without support from the original landowner, pioneering architects and a supportive local authority.

Roy and Eileen Martin were the original landowners of the land on which the Project is sited. On purchase, it had little environmental benefit. It was a monoculture of grass, mainly used for grazing due to frost pockets, boggy areas and exposure to wind. When their son, Nick, proposed a sustainable development incorporating organic land management alongside eco-housing they gave their support. Over time this formalised into a governance framework of a 999 year lease with a peppercorn rent, provided the Project continues to meet its social, environmental and economic obligations.

Professor Brenda Vale and Doctor Robert Vale are architects, and now world-renowned experts, in the field of sustainable housing. Their design framework for eco housing is a simple and cost-effective combination of high thermal mass, to store and release heat;  super-insulation, to retain that heat in the structure of the home until it is needed; and designing for the environment. Whilst working at University of Nottingham they built a zero carbon autonomous town house fitting to the historic town of Southwell. Serendipitously they had used local builder Nick Martin who was looking for architects to help him and a group of friends with their ideas for Hockerton. They used the same design framework, but adapted it to the greenfield setting. By covering the main structure of the homes in a hill, the Vales were able to limit the loss of land from nature; by orientating the homes to face South, the Vales were able to maximise the solar gain used to heat the homes; and with the Vales’ design requirement to use rainwater harvesting to meet all water needs, water reservoirs were introduced that improve the habitat for a range of flora and fauna.

David Pickles OBE was chief architect and energy manager for Newark and Sherwood District Council in the 1990s and 2000s, whose work with others generated a national reputation for innovative energy work in the East Midlands [1]. He understood the vision and the need for research and development of zero carbon homes. He worked with Hockerton Housing Project to develop a framework that ensured the greenfield development would benefit rather than harm the green environment. The resultant section 106 agreement remains a cornerstone of the Project’s activities 20 years on. In particular the requirement to generate employment instigated the trading cooperative that today provides a range of educational and advisory services to a range of individuals and organisations, along with an income for residents [2].

Councillor Walker has visited the Project over the years – during their initial build and when they were first occupied and was interested to see how it was continuing the original vision set out with Newark and Sherwood District Council in a section 106 agreement. He congratulated the residents, past and present on what they had achieved. Guests also heard from Stormsaver, Tarmac and Nottingham University about their interest in the Project’s approach to sustainable housing and water systems, with many questions about why such an affordable approach wasn’t being taken up by developers.

Around 2000 people a year visit the Project each year; it has featured in thousands of green building and energy publications and informed millions more through broadcast media; and is studied by architectural and engineering students across the UK and beyond. But the Project remains, primarily, home to 5 families and their shared interest in continuing the legacy of an exemplar sustainable development that could, and should, shape the design of housing fit for the 21st century.

Date posted: September 28, 2018 | Author: | No Comments »

Categories: Eco homes Sustainable living

A solar passive house is for sale here at Hockerton Housing Project. It is one of the five private homes on this sustainable co-housing development. It comes with shared access and use of renewable energy systems, rainwater harvesting and 6 acres of land, with a further 8.5 acres on an agricultural lease.

Kitchen of house for sale at Hockerton Housing Project

Click here for further information about the house for sale.

Residents benefit from very low bills, onsite renewable energy systems and rainwater harvesting, and access and use of 14.5 acres. The homes and their gardens are private, with all households sharing in the management of the surrounding land and facilities, and the onsite business that delivers a range of services relating to sustainability.

Location
The development is in the Nottinghamshire village of Hockerton, 1.5 miles from the market town of Southwell and 7 miles from Newark, with its 75 minute train link to London. The village has a pub and an active community spirit. Schools include the Lowes Wong Infant and Junior School and the excellent Minster School. Southwell is a bustling historic town with a useful range of shops, two weekly markets, and regular festivals throughout the year.

Date posted: July 24, 2018 | Author: | 2 Comments »

Categories: Eco homes

We have now been running our aquaponics system for a year. It was installed as part of a PhD project emerging from Sheffield Hallam University, exploring how a lay-person would take to soil-free gardening, and capturing lessons that may prove of use if the approach is to be taken up more widely.

Last September we posted our lessons from the initial design and cycling of the aquaponics system, and here is the experience gained from using it in earnest.

  1. Temperature: we are still waiting for the live temperature monitoring system planned by the University, but temperatures in the tank got down to 5C in this uncharacteristically long, cold winter. We keep carp in our system in part due to their ability to cope in a range of temperatures, and whilst their activity seemed to slow, there was no significant problem.
  2. Temperature time-lag: the salads planted in the spring were a lot faster growing in the soil than aquaponics. Without monitoring data it is hard to specify the cause but it is likely that problems with the auto-siphon (see 8)  slower supply of feed and oxygen, and we suspect that the temperature of the water was slower to rise than that of the soil.
  3. Over-winter plants: our main problem over winter was vermin rather than temperatures. The kohlrabi were eaten in one night. But other plants thrived, and we had a supply of green leaves from Mizuna, chard and spinach plants through til Spring.
  4. Thermal mass: Another success were the tomatoes which survived 6 weeks longer than those a meter away that were planted in soil. This may be due to their later planting, but their close proximity to heat-storing thermal mass may also play a part. The mass is in the clay balls in which they are planted, the water, and the dense concrete blocks that support our growing beds – against which the tomatoes were trailed.
  5. Minerals: We share the produce grown between our five households, and concern was raised about whether they were as healthy as soil-grown plants due to a lack of minerals. This prompted some further reading but we were on the right track:
    • Maxicrop to add micronutrients in our initial cycling
    • Rocks from our carp pond helped introduce naturally-occuring bacteria
    • To this we added, after three months, composting worms which seem to be surviving well, and there is no sign of mineral deficiency in the leaves or crops.
  6. Sowing medium: some seeds have self-sown (tomatoes), and some peas and beans have successfully grown from seed scattered in the beds, but vermin were a significant problem – perhaps due to the long winter. To get round this we started seedlings off in an Ikea hydroponics kit in a conservatory, made more sustainable by using our own sheeps’ wool to form the sowing medium, instead of mineral wool.
  7. Evaporation: again, we are yet to receive the monitoring equipment but it seems more water is evaporating than we would expect, with the system requiring approximately 300 litres top-up every 2-3 weeks in growing season.
  8. Cleaning: it took a long time to select fish food and it’s not clear we made the right choice. A lot of it is either not properly digested or dissolved and so occasionally blocks the pipes or is spewed out in to the last growing bed in the system. This bed is now protected to some degree by a sieve under the inlet pipe, but we would advise others to experiment with different feeds before buying a 25kg bag! The outcome of this was that the inlet water slowed to the point it was insufficient to trigger the auto-siphons, the growing beds did not drain once flooded (unless triggered manually) and so plants were starved of oxygen for much of the day.

The plants we are now testing for the first time (for us, at least) are French beans, squash, kale and spring onions. The French beans are densely planted, and are producing many more although much smaller, finer beans than those planted in neighbouring soil; the squash and courgette are slower to take off than those planted in soil, as is the kale, so it is still early days; but it is a delight to finally grow some spring onions which have never taken off in our soil beds.

You can follow more of our food-growing ventures on Instagram.

Date posted: July 9, 2018 | Author: | No Comments »

Categories: Food

Planning permission granted for 9 new eco homesPlanning permission has been granted for 9 houses designed by Hockerton Housing Project.

The earth-sheltered homes will be built on a greenfield site on the edge of a rural village. It is (rightly) not easy to get permission to build on such sites, and the owner had to take the case through to Appeal after the local Council refused permission.

One way to get planning permission on greenfield sites is to demonstrate outstanding architectural merit through an innovative design. This is notoriously difficult as the bar is constantly being raised, and features such as new technologies, complex shapes, height, and overall size add to land, design, build and running costs.

Our approach is the opposite. Our designs are simple and have exceptionally low running costs. However, we argue that we remain innovative so long as measures such as SAP and Passivhaus do not recognise our use of super-insulated thermal mass as a heat store.

The Appeals Inspector for this application recognised the many benefits of the form of our design but felt it was too simple in its aesthetic to get planning permission on the basis of architectural merit, and there was insufficient innovation in his view. That raises questions as to whether planning policy deters affordable housing in rural areas, but there is a positive in that the affordability of our design and the wider scheme remained pertinent to the final judgement.

Permission was granted on the basis that the greenfield site is not isolated and as such the homes would support the economic and social vitality of the village due to their energy saving credentials, size, appeal and affordability to young people and downsizers. Both the Council and the Appeal also recognised that the homes, with their earth-sheltering, related landscaping and reed beds will improve the biodiversity of the site.
Date posted: January 29, 2018 | Author: | 2 Comments »

Categories: Eco homes New Build

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