As part of our third Enhancement Week, we travelled to the Hockerton Housing Project (HHP) in Nottinghamshire. With the theme being Principles of Sustainable Design, the self-sufficient co-housing development appeared an ideal choice.
Operating as a community business, HHP welcomes tours of their development and we were enthusiastically met by Debbie and son Chris. Split into two groups, we toured the facilities starting with the on-site water management. We saw how the potable and non-potable water are captured and treated (separately) without the use of chemicals, and gained a real understanding of how community responsibility was paramount to the maintenance of the system.
Next we moved on to renewable energy and HHP describe themselves as ‘renewable energy pioneers’. They were the first site in Nottinghamshire to use wind turbines and they lined the green roofs of their co-housing with chunky solar panels. The more recently built visitor centre (2012) has much newer, more efficient solar panels. We walked up the green roof of the co-housing to take a closer look at the panels and to see the view over the reed bed and lake (100m in length to enable swans to take off).
We were invited into one of the earth sheltered homes to get an idea of size and scale, but also to feel at first hand the ambient temperature – whist 9 degrees outside it was a warm 21 degrees inside. Built from concrete, the high thermal mass with high levels of insulation means that the building requires no heating. The individually owned, adjacent properties each have a small private garden but all energy, water systems and food are shared. We walked through poly tunnels looking at the variety of vegetables, watched eggs being collected and were introduced to various livestock, including a flock of sheep and some Gloucester Spots – all of which are managed by the community.
The ideals that underpin the community are to meet their needs through making the most of their natural capital and their social capital – all residents are paid £15/hour for any type of work no matter what the level of skill, and each adult is committed to providing 300 hours/year towards community activities.
This was a great trip to be a part of and one that the students are still talking about today. I’m looking forward to seeing some of these design aspects and philosophies transferring into their own projects and submissions over the coming months.