I am pleased to announce that in conjunction with Sustainable Hockerton we are now working with students who are solving the climate crisis on a regular basis.
We often get requests for help with dissertation projects in the form of requests to answer questionnaires or taking part in interviews. Sustainable Hockerton has agreed to fund some time to enable this support to occur. This is a limited resource so there will be a queuing system. In exchange for our input students will be requested to supply their finished work for publication on our website so that others can share their insights.
The climate crisis needs all hands-on deck to create a new way of living that does not destroy our atmosphere and decimate the wonderful species around us. Academic learning on how we do this is a critical step. Action based on good knowledge and understanding is now urgent for all of us.
As an example, Ellen Potter a student from the University of Sheffield ask us to be interviewed on the a topic she was assigned to written on. The title was How Do Cooperatives Put into Practice New Ecological Relations? HHP is a cooperative acting as a catalyst for change towards sustainable development and Sustainable Hockerton is a cooperative society developing community owned renewables and promoting sustainable living, so we were able to help her with this. Her report can be found here and is a good example of the in depth thinking necessary to start solving the problems we face. She has produced a thoughtful and well-argued case for cooperation and its ability to value what is not on a typical business balance sheet. working with students is very rewarding. This fits well with Dr Geeta Lakshmi and my work on community, value and power. This latter work may help facilitate financiers to understand arithmetically the wider value of capital within organisations. Link to paper and here.
How can better ecological relations be put into practice? We have been working on this. Here is a practical live project. Located at the western gateway to the Nottinghamshire village of Eakring, the site’s 10 acres have been taken out of agriculture production to provide nine homes within a managed wildlife area.
Eakring farmer and retired GP, Dr Chris Parsons, describes his project, Howgate Close as an opportunity to address some of society’s most pressing issues: rural housing shortage, climate change, soil restoration, carbon sequestration, biodiversity, water management and purification and community cohesiveness.
Howgate Close’s main objective is to provide local people who’ve been priced out of home-ownership, with high quality rented homes, offering low running costs, low maintenance and access to the open countryside. Also underway are plans to benefit the wider community with permissive access rights to part of the wood pasture.
Dr Parsons engaged the local ‘Hockerton Housing Project’ (HHP) to design ‘Howgate Close’ formally Eakring Eco Houses, using the design principles applied at HHP by its Architects, Professor’s Brenda and Robert Vale. Jerry Harrall is now also closely involved and writes more about the project here. It has an impressive SAP score you can see above, 142A.
To conclude. As Ellen says “humans and nature are not separate entities”.
Sustainable construction – what is thermal mass? Lets have a look at what this means:
Lets start with what is Sustainable Construction?
Sustainability is the creation and maintenance of systems that meets the needs of the present without compromising the ability of future generations to meet their own needs.
There are three key interacting aspects to sustainability: economic, environmental and social. If one of these is lacking, people will find it difficult to meet their needs.
The challenge for self-builders or any new-build is keeping costs of the build under control, but it is important to not let short-term costs deter you from making long-term savings from lower energy and water costs.
The principles of high thermal mass and passive solar gain work in HHP homes to eliminate the need for artificial heating. It also underlines the priority we give to helping people develop and deliver low budget, low tech and buildable designs.
What is thermal mass?
‘Thermal mass‘ describes a material’s capacity to absorb, store and release heat. For example water and concrete have a high capacity to store heat and are referred to as ‘high thermal mass‘ materials.
Thermal mass acts as a thermal battery. During summer it absorbs heat during the day and releases it by night keeping the house comfortable. In winter the same thermal mass can store the heat from the sun and release it much later, helping the home stay warm.
Thermal mass is not a substitute for insulation. To be effective, thermal mass must be integrated with appropriate design techniques such as areas of glazing facing the appropriate directions, tight construction and insulation on the outside of the mass.
So how does this work?
Thermal mass reduces the need for any form of whole house heating in the Hockerton homes. The house construction of concrete creates thermal mass because it is insulated on the outside. The mass stores the energy from the sun, our bodies and incidental gains to keep the houses at a constant temperature throughout the year typically around 20 degrees. In the summer the houses feel cool and in the winter they feel warm.
More information on Thermal performance and the construction of HHP houses are available here and from the concrete centre.
I did not imagine I would be writing to you about a small piece of irreplaceable Fenland habitat near York and the threat from property developers to destroy it. Understanding the value of our natural environment is key to a sustainable healthy future.
Globally our whole planet is under threat from Covid 19 and climate collapse. Could the former be a turning point to help solve the latter? A cool-headed assessment is required. Thankfully, the World Meteorological Organisation (WMO) has just produced a report titled ‘The Global Climate 2015 to 2019’ to help us understand where we are. The New Scientist interviewed the author Petteri Taalas who had some very interesting things to say.
During the past 20 years we have seen the 19 warmest years on record.
We have observed concentrations of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere of 415 parts per million (400 was once regarded as critical.)
During the past century sea level rise was typically 1 to 2 millimetres per year, during recent years we have seen the rise of between 4 and 5 millimetres per year.
20 years ago we had 20 million people exposed to heat waves on an annual basis, during the past 3 years we have exceeded 200 million a year. We have seen casualties from this in Europe at over 75,000 people in a single year.
With these sobering conditions in mind as we invest in the recovery from COVID-19 it is imperative that we tackle climate change as part of the recovery. This is perfect opportunity to start solving the problem.
The IPCC report found last year that emissions must fall by 7.6% every year this decade to meet the Paris agreements goal of checking warming at 1.5 degrees Celsius.
We cannot assume the climate catastrophe is solved by Covid -19. We must not head back to burning coal, oil and gas. If we allow the climate catastrophe to continue the health and economic impacts will be much higher than the ones that we are facing with this “short term” COVID-19 crisis. If you compare casualties from hunger the numbers are already much higher than the COVID-19 casualties.
What about the little scrap of fenland bog in Askham near York? Well I am pleased to say you made the right decision and stopped the development. I wholeheartedly congratulate you for this. Please focus your mind on solving the much bigger yet more important problem of the climate crisis with similar resolve. You would be very welcome to visit Hockerton Housing Project to see our attempt at a solution for low cost low impact eco housing with a holistic approach while still meeting very high environmental, social and financial standards.
If you have read to here congratulations. If you have read to here and you are not Robert Jenrick please consider sending this or a similar letter to your MP. If you are an MP please consider acting upon this information.
If you want to come to see Hockerton Housing Project for real book a place here for the 12th September.
May be of interest….a webinar run by The Concrete Centre provides an introduction to thermal mass and its energy/carbon saving benefits. It will cover: What is thermal mass? How is it used? How is it measured and how much do you need? General rules of thumb are provided throughout the talk, including the upfront carbon savings that can be achieved through avoided internal finishes and M&E plant. Book now
hope this finds you safe and well in these challenging times. We have been reviewing what the foreseeable
future may be like for us and have some exciting news to share.
Live Zoom tours:
You can book a LIVE zoom tour of the project by one of the founding members. Ideal for people interested in a more sustainable life and want to see how others have done it. We live in a sustainable community and can show you our response to the Climate Emergency. You can book by contacting us.
We hope once we have tested the waters we hope to repeat these depending on the demand and also add some more technical tours.
Please share this with your friends and family.
New eco home emerges from the ground.
A new eco bungalow starts to take shape here in Hockerton. As usual built far beyond the building regs…. at little to no extra cost! Similar onsite buildings have had net positive energy figures meaning they make more than they consume.