Planning 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.
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
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.
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.
Over the past 18 years we’ve hosted thousands of students of energy, water, and environmental sciences but increasing number of visits from other strands of academia is both heartening and fascinating.
“HHP showed me that I was wrong and it is possible to live in a (much more) sustainable way without diminishing our quality of life. I would even argue that the ‘Hockerton lifestyle’ might even be far more enjoyable than the busy, consumption-focused lifestyle most of us enjoy”
“Highlights on the day included “the house tour as we got to see how it all came together in reality”, “the aquaponics, as this was not something I was aware of before, the conservative and careful use of water (e.g. less filtered water for showering and the toilet), their own water filtration systems and being off the grid for water”.
“[we] were all surprised at the toasty warm floor despite the absence of any central or secondary heating!”
You can read their views in full here, or contact us to find out how we can bring your area of work or study to life for your students, colleagues or clients.
Heating and hot water for UK buildings make up 40% of our energy consumption and 20% of our greenhouse gas emissions. It will be necessary to largely eliminate these emissions by around 2050 to meet the targets in the Climate Change Act and to maintain the UK contribution to international action under the Paris Agreement.
It’s been widely welcomed for highlighting the stalling of Government policy in recent years. But one point sticks out to us in particular:
New-build. Buildings constructed now should not require retrofit in 15 years’ time. Rather, they should be highly energy efficient and designed to accommodate low-carbon heating from the start, meaning that it is possible to optimise the overall system efficiency and comfort at a building level.
The document expands on the potential for heat pumps and district heating, but where is the option of zero-heating? Why not build homes so they don’t need central heating? Whose heating system helps with summer cooling? And use solar PV and wind to top up efficient immersion heated water stores when renewable power supply surpasses time-critical demand?
It can be done, with existing technology and skills, at roughly the same cost as a new home built to building regulations alone, and here’s our energy use from the last 15 years, and a related temperature study to prove it.
The average energy use by the homes at Hockerton Housing Project has consistently been less than a third of that used by the ‘average’ UK household, and two-thirds of that demanded by the Passive House standard.
So why is this approach not being followed more often?
There is no great commercial incentive to lobby for this low-tech and affordable approach. It profits residents rather than manufacturers or standard-setters.
There’s an assumption that high thermal mass, in the form of concrete, is inherently bad. It’s not if it removes the need for heating, reduces maintenance, and increases the durability of the home. Parity with timber-framed homes is reached at about 20 years.
And here’s the small print:
5 homes, averaging 2 adults, 1-2 children
Increase use over time reflects increased home-working and children becoming teenagers. Savings in the general population are not mirrored as homes at Hockerton have always had energy efficient lightbulbs, sought the most efficient appliances, and had energy-aware residents.
Temperature tracking was undertaken when home was drying out and with low occupancy in that first winter, so not a perfect study, and overheating is now minimised through shading of conservatory sunspaces during summer. Even before this, the instances of overheating met the requirements of the Passive House standard.
When space heating is required, it can be delivered by small electric heaters with far lower capital and operational costs. Such occasional use is included in the usage graph above.
Readings are taken manually so some of the quarters are thirds, or very small quarters. One particular peak can be put down to our Christmas party in 2012! If anyone wants to fund/test automated reads, do get in touch!
Every 3 – 4 months we read our 50 power and water meters to check how we are doing in terms of consumption, generation and export.
Each household pays for their share of consumption relative to use, with any income from the export of renewable energy shared equally between us.
The resultant figures help us remain aware of our use, not least because we see it relative to (or in competition with?!) our neighbours. It also reminds us how well these houses perform. This can become easy to forget when the house is your home – until heatwaves like this week, when we could feel the difference as the thermal mass soaked up any heat that made it through shaded windows.
* Our average daily energy use was around 23% of a standard house (per house, not incl the garages).
* We exported 38% of what we generated, compared with 48% in the winter
* We earn around 4p for a kWh exported but pay on average 7.5p per kWh we use, so over the last 4 months we’ve missed out on energy worth £145.
* In the last 4 months we’ve generated the equivalent of 95% of our total household use (not including our shares in our community-owned wind turbine of course).
* And we are using 260 litres of water a day per house on average. Potable: non-potable is 1:11. This is a similar ratio to that in the first quarter but an increase overall. Average usage per person is 82 litres, compared with Code for Sustainable Homes Level 5 and 6 target of 80 litres – perhaps due to higher number of washes during peak vegetable gardening season!