This week Kevin McCloud returned to the Hedgehog Project in Brighton on Grand Designs and showed how that housing co-operative has moved on from being an innovative self-build to building roots in the community – reflecting our experience here at Hockerton Housing Project.

We are hoping that the planners at Newark and Sherwood will have been watching, as a plan for a new self-build partnership in Hockerton is now under consideration.  The plan is to demolish a redundant industrial building and replace it with five two-storey homes (up to 3 bedrooms) and two one-storey, one bed homes.

Hockerton Housing Project is supportive of the plans for a number of reasons:

  1. The energy efficient design will deliver 80% less carbon and 60% lower running cost than homes built to today’s minimum standards.
  2. Each dwelling will have a share in Hockerton’s community-owned wind turbine to ‘offset’ the carbon content of remaining energy use.
  3. Rainwater harvesting and water efficient appliances will limit demand for mains water, and a reedbed will be used to avoid nasty odours from sewage.
  4. Affordable housing allows people with a wider range of skills and expertise to live in rural areas.
  5. The co-operative nature of the development, both in its build and its maintenance, means pride will be taken in the quality of the work on buildings and landscaping.
  6. The more people resident in the village, the better for local businesses such as the farm shop, the pub,  restaurant and ice-cream parlour.

Self-build partnerships are rare, but offer many benefits, so let’s hope the planning officials see the merit of putting brownfield land to better use as a site for new affordable homes in Hockerton, further strengthening the village’s reputation as a hub of innovative and affordable energy efficient homes.

If you are interested in understanding how we developed our self-build at Hockerton Housing Project, and how the co-operative works in practice, make a new year’s resolution to come on one of our Sustainable Living Tours – the next one is 19 January 2013.

Date posted: December 31, 2012 | Author: | 2 Comments »

Categories: Co-Housing Eco homes New Build Rainwater Harvesting Reed Beds Sustainable living

Hockerton Housing Project has been hosting tours for over ten years, showing over 20,000 people around the Project and its homes to help them understand how homes and communities can meet the energy and environmental challenges of the 21st century.

The most frequent visitors come from our local universities in Nottingham, Derby, Sheffield, Loughborough and Lincoln but we’re keen to see more – both from other universities and from a greater range of courses.  Our Project is not just about the housing or the technical infrastructure; it can be used to illustrate a range of studies including the politics of communities and the role of sustainability in health services.

Feedback suggests a visit to us can really inspire students…

Thanks again for a great day and for inspiring my students!

Reader in Environmental Geography, Geography Department,University of Leicester

It was a super experience and the students were buzzing all the way home.

Associate Professor, School of Politics and International Relations, University of Nottingham

Many thanks for another superb visit.  It gives the students a real insight into the options for more sustainable living and really gives them something to think about.

Queen Elizabeth High School for Girls

I’d just like to thank you personally for inviting us in your homes and inspiring future generations with your amazing work. It was such a productive experience as we got to see everything we’ve been taught in our module in real life.  I thought it was all just theory but to see it up and running and so successful gave me great joy.

Engineering student, Loughborough University

We’ve prepared a short guide to these visits for lecturers and teachers, and are keen to hear from lecturers how you think we could help you bring sustainability to life in your classroom or through a visit to Hockerton Housing Project.

Date posted: November 19, 2012 | Author: | No Comments »

Categories: Eco homes Renewable energy Sustainable living Water systems

Yesterday the Government launched its Energy Efficiency Strategy, and we were particularly interested to see if any mention was given to the role of SAP, the Government’s energy performance assessment tool.

Hockerton Housing Project takes pride in its low-tech, low-cost approach, and the homes consume 15-25% of the energy used by homes built today. But the Government’s energy efficiency measurement assessment tools (SAP and RdSAP) cannot compute the benefit of homes like ours:

  • SAP cannot cater for our use of passive solar gain as our main heating system
  • Use of thermal mass to reduce heat demand through the year is not recognised (the thermal mass in our homes essentially stores the summer heat and keeps our homes warm in winter)
  • SAP assumes that an element of mass thicker than 100mm has no additional thermal capacity is flawed (SAP2009 Table 1e: Heat capacities for some common constructions), contrary to evidence at HHP.  As long as the mass is well insulated (externally) the full thickness of the mass will be effective as a heat sink.
  • RdSAP does not differentiate between internal and external solid wall insulation, so the benefits of external insulation to “lock in” the mass of the walls, which can then aid summer cooling and winter heating, are not recognised for existing dwellings.
  • SAP assumes that thermally separate conservatories are not present, ignoring two benefits:
  • The sunspace provides sheltering of the dwelling from the external environment, therefore reducing heat losses.
  • The sunspace can be used to harvest passive solar energy which can then be brought into the main dwelling to top-up the heat stored in the thermal mass as required.

All this matters because the Government tells us in the Strategy that it intends to make more policies conditional on energy efficiency.  Access to feed-in tariffs and the renewable heat incentive are already affected, and RdSAP or EPC ratings could also be used to introduce differential council tax or stamp duty.  All this will mean that energy efficiency improvements will be made to meet whatever measure of energy efficiency is applied.  Whilst a policy to drive up the value of energy efficiency in the property market would be very welcome, as this is potentially the simplest way to drive investment in existing homes, this must not be so broad-brush as to drive out innovative approaches and a process for ‘exceptions-handling’ must be incorporated into future policies.

Seeing is believing

On the upside, whatever documents come out of Westminster, here at Hockerton we’re enjoying ‘zero’ energy bills as our investment in additional solar PV starts to pay off and the summer heat stored in our thermal mass continues to keep our homes warm.

If you are interested in homes that are comfortable yet consume only 15-25% of the energy used by homes built today, this time of year is the best time to visit to truly feel the difference.  There are some spaces left on the tour this coming Saturday 17 November so book your place on a tour of Hockerton Housing Project here.

Date posted: November 13, 2012 | Author: | 6 Comments »

Categories: Eco homes Existing Homes New Build

When Jenny, who grew up at Hockerton Housing Project, left to take up a place at University we thought it was an opportunity to ask her what contrasts she noticed between HHP and University life!

I recently left Hockerton Housing project to go to the University of Nottingham to study for a Masters degree in Biology.

This move provided a unique opportunity to document my experience and the differences and similarities that I noticed between home and University. It is difficult to compare two such establishments, an eco community of five households I have lived in for fourteen years and halls of residence housing I have lived in for a year which houses around 350 students.

Clearly these living arrangements are on very different scales. However, I will not so much try to compare them but discuss the positive and negative environmental impacts of the University that I noticed in my first year.

On moving into the halls of residence I first noticed that there were photovoltaic cells on the roofs and recycling bins in each block of rooms, making it easy for the students to sort their rubbish. I also noticed that students make good use of public transport as well as choosing to cycle and walk rather than driving. This is something that maybe mostly motivated by money and the absence of parking spaces for students on the campus but which nonetheless contributes to the greenness of the University and students.

Communal living at university lessens the amount of autonomous decisions that you have. For instance regulating lighting and heating in communal areas is difficult. Communal living at University presents the obvious issue of food waste, especially in catered halls where hundreds of students are fed at each meal time. Food is thus cooked in bulk and waste is inevitable. It also makes it impossible for students to choose the source of their food. These are issues which would be hard to resolve. At Hockerton Housing Project families are required to spend part of their week growing food on an organic allotment to supply locally grown food and thus reduce the carbon emissions associated with food production.

For many students it is true that being eco-friendly is not a priority. Students live busy lives and have, not only University studies to complete, but also have to learn to live independently. This is particularly apparent in first year when fending for oneself and coping with living away from home is the main focus!

A significant  aspect of University is that it brings together people from all different walks of life. However this also highlighted to me the difference between my and my fellow students upbringings. I was able to access a vast amount of environmental knowledge and understanding when I was growing up, something that many students did not have the opportunity to experience. Thus for most of them coming from a background where recycling is not undertaken and where space heating is used all year round, it must be difficult to see what can be achieved on a day to day basis.

It is clear that the university is involved with environmental issues. Having been asked to write this article I decided to research into the environmental efforts of the University. The University of Nottingham is one of the leading green Universities and is currently 2nd in the UI Green Metric of the world’s leading green Universities. It has a group called the ‘Young Greens Society’ which is affiliated with both the Young Greens and the Green Party and raises awareness of sustainable issues and the Green Party.

Also Nottingham University School of the Built Environment has a number of exemplar low CO2 emission buildings which are on the campus and provide an opportunity for academic research and evaluation. Students on courses within this Dept. are also regular visitors to Hockerton Housing Project.

It is clear that the University makes an effort to be environmentally friendly by producing electricity, providing students with recycling facilities and through its academic efforts. It would be interesting to consider how the University could make sustainability more central to their students life experiences and the impact this could have on the future lives of its graduates. Student welfare is central to the University’s but this service seems to focus primarily on financial, health and academic dimensions and does not prioritise sustainability… this a missed opportunity???

If you would like to visit Hockerton Housing Project with a group of students, then please contact us

Jenny Rajan

Date posted: September 13, 2012 | Author: | No Comments »

Categories: Sustainable living

The Sustainable Hockerton community-owned wind turbine continues to turn a profit! Members of the Society have received payments of 8% interest and there is enough money left in the bank to donate £10,000 to the village to pursue sustainability and energy saving projects. Not bad for the second year of full operation! The most frequent quote from investors was “I only wish I had invested more!”

If you would like help with setting up a community wind turbine project please contact us.


Date posted: September 3, 2012 | Author: | No Comments »

Categories: Community Energy Renewable energy Wind Turbines

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