Slapping solar panels on a suburban house is a step in the right direction, but it does not make a house green; there are so many things that have to change in the way we live to really reduce our footprint and actually improve our standard of living, sense of community and general all-round happiness. Bob Tomlinson has tried to do that in the Wintles, in Shropshire, UK.
Donnachadh McCarthy writes in the Independent: "Tomlinson feels that modern estate housing does not encourage people to put down roots and create good communities. The modern habit of moving home, on average, every seven years comes at a huge cost to the environment. Not only does it damage human relationships, but a huge amount of waste is created in the constant redecorating and refurnishing generated by this housing carousel."
Tomlinson is passionate in his belief that an eco-town must not only be built using the latest low-carbon technologies but must also engender a sense of place, to be a town that will work from one generation to the next and be able to feed and clothe itself from local products. Wintles has 12 acres of shared woodland and allotments, so that people can feed themselves, and they even bought a failed pub in town and are turning it into a micro-brewery.
The houses are built in clusters of about ten to twelve homes, small enough that Tomlinson thinks that people can mange their shared woodlands and common areas without formal committees and boards.
The houses are wood framed with lots of insulation, careful placement of windows for passive solar heating, with wood stoves. That didn't stop the authorities from questioning the designs;
"The banks that lent the money insisted on central heating being put in, even though the homes were heated perfectly well by wood-burners. The heating engineers would not sign off the properties without insisting on radiators being installed upstairs, even though, due to the very high insulation, they were unnecessary. The water company insisted on Living Villages taking external liability for any problem with the rain-harvesting system, which caused further problems with the banks. And the council insisted on the approach road being wide enough for two refuse trucks to pass – even though this is deepest Shropshire." ::Independent
Thanks for the tip, Alex at ::Shedworking
The Living Villages ethos
* An eco-community should have no more than 10 to 12 households; the wider neighbourhood should have only 40 to 70 households.
* Homes must be designed to accommodate a full range of households and types of people.
* Front doors should face each other on a circular communal area.
* Cars should be banned from the front-door area and not be allowed to drive directly through the development.
* Developments should have land set aside for woodland, orchards and allotments.
* The houses should be ultra-energy efficient, include passive solar design and wood-burners for heating.
* Designs should reflect the local vernacular and be made as much as possible from local materials.
* The design should encourage residents to stay for their lifetime and work for the next generation of their family, too.