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As more people become aware of eco communities, bigger and better eco schemes continue to be constructed around the globe. Predictions through sustainable housing vary, but it is estimated that two thirds of the world population will be living in eco communities towards the middle part of this century. The goal of this report is to see how Britain will react through the housing market.
On the 13th May 2007, Gordon Brown proposed a number of new 'eco towns' to help solve the problem of Britain's house shortage. Whilst campaigning to succeed Tony Blair as the countries Prime Minister, Brown said he wanted 100,000 carbon neutral houses to be built on old industrial sites around the country. England currently has a need for 500,000 new homes, though Gordon Brown has exceeded this by announcing up to three million new houses by 2020. Eco towns begin to solve the problem of the housing shortage, whilst reducing the effect on the environment that conventional towns have. Housing construction itself is high on energy usage, mainly through materials and the construction process.
However, fierce opposition and a lack of realism has left the scheme as a whole in doubt, though some of the eco towns are set to go ahead. The proposals were set to produce between 5000-20000 super insulated eco houses at each site, using some of the most up to date technologies in energy conservation, as well as a large number of open green spaces such as parks and playgrounds. Specialised public transport systems will aid travelling through the town, with all important public service buildings within walking distance. The whole scheme was set to cost £3million, final completion being in an optimistic 2020.
Within this report I will look firstly at the main features of an eco community, and how they differ from conventional housing estates. Eco communities focus on harvesting as much use from natural resources possible, and there are a number of ways that this can be done. These are mentioned within the report.
I will then look at Gordon Browns Proposals for the eco communities in the UK and the opposition towards them. From a large number of entries applying to the scheme, a collative shortlist of fifteen local authorities was produced to house one of the schemes. Currently only four of these are set to be constructed for completion in 2016, as they were the only schemes that showed a thorough understanding of the requirements for a successful eco community.
From here I will study three examples of eco communities around the world. The first example will be the Hockerton Housing Project, one of the original and most successful schemes in this country. The project, based just outside of Nottingham, consists of five earth covered eco houses with a strong communal approach. It was completed in 1998, and over ten years on is still a leading example for eco friendly design.
Overseas I will be studying Hammarby Sjöstad in Stockholm, an eco city currently under construction. The project emerged as Gordon Browns main inspiration for the UK schemes, and hence reflects the current proposals. It is currently the most popular eco scheme around Europe, and is seen as a future blueprint for environmentally friendly design.
Finally, I will firstly look at The EcoVillage, set in Currumbin on Australia's gold coast. The scheme is internationally acclaimed as the leading example for environmental design. The relevance of this is to see if the features of an eco community differ much through the changes in climate, and how certain technologies are suited to the warmer dryer climates than the cooler, wetter climates.
THE ECO COMMUNITY
Eco communities can differ sue to a number of factors, such as climate, topology or rainfall. Alternatively, strategies can also be based on what the community intends to achieve. This could be from creating a large open space, intending to help release more oxygen into the air. The town could also aim to ban vehicle use, allowing only walking or cycling within the area.
All in all, the eco town is a project that aims to decrease in energy use through everyday activities, whilst harvesting energy from as many natural sources as possible. Such measures are seen as a must in lowering the carbon footprint level to zero before 2016, and in turn preserving our environment for years to come.
Features of an eco community
Zero Carbon Homes
For eco communities to be successful, the houses must act as the fundamental eco friendly design. The leading in Carbon Zero homes, is the German 'PassiveHaus'. The term comes from a voluntary project taken on over ten years ago, using ultra low-energy construction design. To date, over 17,000 houses have been built to PassiveHaus principles, with several now nearing completion and certification in this country. The core focus of a PassiveHaus is to dramatically reduce the energy used through space heating and cooling, without jeopardising on comfort or relying on falling prices in renewable energy technology. The specific space heating requirement for a PassiveHaus room is 15kWh (m²a), up to a tenth of the energy needed per room in older buildings. Such numbers mean that heating a room can solely rely of heat emitted from ourselves and electrical appliances, such as a television.
The government's measurable standard for housing in this country is the code for sustainable homes. The buildings are graded in terms of their ecological performance taking everything into account. The houses within the newly proposed eco towns are required to reach level four of the code out of a possible six, meaning the house performs well environmentally.
One of the biggest emphases within the eco town is the use of open 'green space'. Whilst being important for their aesthetic qualities, these 'Carbon Sinks' absorb carbon dioxide, as it is a major fuel allowing photosynthesis to take place in plants and trees. For example, the emissions of one hundred family cars can be absorbed by one hectare of woodland. Such open spaces provide many more qualities, helping with natural cooling, flood prevention, micro climate control and habitat restoration (Yeang, K. 2009). The general wellbeing that open space brings is vital towards a successful community.
A self sustaining community should govern itself, making sure collative energy targets are met and maintained. There must be high roles within the residents that organise meetings between other residents and surrounding communities, discussing and sorting current pressing issues.
Transport and Movement
Travelling through an eco community must suit the pedestrian rather than the vehicle, in order to reduce car usage. An efficient and regular public transport service around the town should be in place, again doing as much as possible to restrict the use of vehicles. Fifty per cent of journeys within the proposed communities must be by either foot or bicycle.
Important services buildings will be within the towns to help reduce commuting. These are healthcare, library, social and education buildings. The majority of schemes conclude that the above services must be within a walking distance of 800 metres.
Food and Farming
Local food production will be encourages throughout the communities. This helps to cut down on energy through travelling to the local supermarkets, as well as in deliveries from the manufacturer.
Each dwelling will provide one employment opportunity, which can be easily reached by walking, cycling, or public transport. Furthermore, economic strategies could be put in place on how access to work may be achieved, through the use of public transport, or even car pooling.
Energy meters should be included within the houses to keep the user aware of the amount of Energy being used.
The Eco Towns Prospectus
The Eco-Towns Prospectus is a government published document indicating what the keys aims are for the new eco- towns. They are set to be relatively small towns, producing between 5000-20000 homes. The main aim is to create a town that is completely zero carbon through both its buildings and its transport, whilst creating quality new design and architecture. The key features are:
- A place that links in with its surroundings through jobs and travel, so easy access between the places can be achieved. However, it is important that a certain identity exists for the town that is completely separate from the nearest city.
- The whole development must achieve carbon zero energy levels, whilst excelling in one new technology that relates to the environment.
- There should be a good range of facilities within the eco town, meaning travelling outside of the area is limited in need. The town should include space for a Secondary School, shopping facilities and business and leisure parks
- Between 30 and 50 per cent housing must be affordable, with a mixture of tenures in different sized dwellings.
- From this, the local authorities interested produced a much more detailed set of points, outlining the precise measures they intend to take in order to qualify for an eco town. The majority improved on the original targets, in order to be granted an eco town in their area.
Department for Communities and Local Government:London (2007). Eco-Towns Prospectus . Press release, issued 2007.
From this, the local authorities interested produced a much more detailed set of points, outlining the precise measures they intend to take in order to qualify for an eco town. The majority improved on the original targets, in order to be granted an eco town in their area.
BREEAM marking schemes
To measure how successful an eco community is, there are external assessment schemes. The most popular internationally are the 'BREEAM' schemes. The BREEAM Company has a set number of divisions set up to assess all building types internationally, through education and offices to prisons and courts.
The BREEAM Communities method is the most relevant for the eco towns. The aim of the assessment is to aid planners and developers to constantly measure and improve the sustainability of their proposals at the planning stage (BREEAM, 2009, <http://www.breeam.org/page.jsp?id=117>). It assesses eight general categories that are used in regional checklists and that are local authorities and developers are already familiar with. These are:
- 'Climate change and energy - flooding, heat island, water efficiency, sustainable energy, site infrastructure
- Community - promoting community networks and interaction, involvement in decision making, supporting public services, social economy and community structure, and community management of the development
- Place making - efficient use of land, design process, form of development, open space, adaptability, inclusive communities, crime, street lighting/light pollution security lighting
- Buildings - EcoHomes / BREEAM or Code for Sustainable Homes
- Transport and movement - general policy, public transport, parking, pedestrians and cyclists, proximity of local amenities, traffic management, car club
- Ecology - conservation, enhancement of ecology, planting
- Resources - appropriate use of land resources, environmental impact, locally reclaimed materials. water resource planning, refuse composting, noise pollution, construction waste
- Business - competitive business, business opportunities, employment, business types'
(BREEAM, 2009, <http://www.breeam.org/page.jsp?id=117>)
From this checklist, marks are given from 0 to 100 and then set out against the rating benchmarks from Unclassified (below or equal to 25 marks) to Outstanding (above or equal to 85 marks). The Code for Communities is marked in an alternative way, but is still completely viable.
The BREEAM guides are important for the growth and wellbeing of the eco friendly market. Whilst grading a huge range of buildings, there are always boundaries to be pushed through materiality and technology to gain the highest grade possible, and in turn produce the best performing building.
GOVERNMENT PROPOSALS FOR ECO TOWNS AND OPPOSITION
It is vital that we evolve towards sustainability in every aspect towards the town or city, through urban form, transport, landscape, buildings and most of all, energy supply. It is also important to keep the vibrancy of the city alive, and so setting the priorities for people rather than cars.
Originally, Gordon Brown had plans to develop 10 eco towns around the country, the first UK eco towns for 40 years, in order to help ease the current house shortage whilst showing ambition for reaching the 'Carbon Neutral' energy levels by 2016. The proposals on the new eco towns set a competition throughout the local authorities to create a town vibrant enough to persuade the rest of the country to follow suit, with each project blossoming through its sustainability. The schemes were designed by a number of companies, allowing the settlements to have 'a range of design styles rather than be the grand vision of a single Architect' (Helen Crump, 2008).
There was an original shortlist of 15 potential sites around the country, which was as follows:
- Pennbury, Leicestershire: 12-15,000 homes on a development incorporating brown field, greenfield and surplus public sector land.
- Manby and Strubby, Lincolnshire: 5,000 homes put forward by East Lindsey District Council on two sites, with large elements of brown field land including a former RAF base.
- Curborough, Staffordshire: 5,000 homes on the brown field site of the former Fradley airfield, ten miles from Burton.
- Middle Quinton, Warwickshire: 6,000 homes on a former Royal Engineers depot which has a rail link to the Worcester-London rail line.
- Bordon-Whitehill, Hampshire: 5-8,000 homes on a site owned by the Ministry of Defence. A significant number of ex-MoD homes are already on the site, west of Whitehill-Bordon.
- Weston Otmoor, Oxfordshire: 10-15,000 homes on a site adjoining the M40 and the Oxford-Bicester railway. Three miles south west of Bicester, the site includes a current airstrip.
- Ford, West Sussex: 5,000 homes on a site which includes brown field land and the former Ford airfield. Close to rail line linking London and the Sussex coast.
- Imerys China Clay Community, Cornwall: Development of around 5,000 homes on former china clay workings, industrial land and disused mining pits no longer needed by owner Imerys. Close to St Austell.
- Rossington, South Yorkshire: Up to 15,000 homes regenerating the former colliery village of Rossington, three miles south of Doncaster.
- Coltishall, Norfolk: 5,000 homes on a former RAF airfield, eight miles north of Norwich.
- Hanley Grange, Cambridgeshire: 8,000 homes on land adjacent to the A11 designed to improve the severe lack of housing in and around Cambridge.
- Marston Vale and New Marston, Bedfordshire: Up to 15,400 homes on a series of sites, including former industrial sites, along the east-west rail line to Stewartby and Millbrook.
- Elsenham, Essex: A minimum of 5,000 homes north east of the existing Elsenham village..
- Rushcliffe, Nottinghamshire: No longer being pursued
- Leeds City Region, Yorkshire: No longer being pursued
Communities and Local Government [online]. (2008) [Accessed 30th January 2009]. Available from: <(2) http://www.communities.gov.uk/news/corporate/737721>.
Since the release of this shortlist, fierce opposition from residents around the areas as well as leading architects has caused the original number of 10 towns to be more than halved for the time being. Gordon Browns' vision for so many eco towns to be built in such a small space of time has always been seen as very ambitious. However, the opposition to the towns is through a number of similar reasons in each project. For the time 4 eco towns have been approved and are set to go to site in 2010. These are:
- Rackheath - Norfolk
- Weston Otmoor - Oxfordshire
- Bordon -Whitehill - Hampshire
- Imery's China clay community - Cornwall
Since the schemes were mentioned, the main fear from the public was that the decision on the eco towns would be decided centrally, and therefore could go ahead without local consent or support. Furthermore, there have been cases where the eco towns are set to encroach on land that is currently green belt, a further strong opposing factor. Kate Gordon, a senior planning officer supports this by saying, "there are a number of locations that involve the loss of greenfield land, agricultural land and would damage attractive landscapes" (Brown and Green Don't Mix, Building Design, 2008).
"All the low-flush toilets in the world can't make dumping a housing estate on green fields somehow eco-friendly," said Grant Shapps, the Shadow Housing Minister (OurFuturePlanet, 2009). Marilyn Metcalfe, head of Bordon Area Action Group, which opposes the scheme in Whitehill Bordon, said: "It beggars belief that another 15,000 people would not damage the surrounding wildlife, that we could all survive on the same amount of water used now, and that doubling the population would produce no more carbon emissions than Bordon does today" (OurFuturePlanet, 2009).
The opposition has seen a number of websites and blogs being created through the internet and attracting large numbers of followers. Sites such as the BARD Campaign (Better Accessible Responsible Development) are keeping an up to date eye on proceedings, and allowing people to voice their concerns. There are commentaries on the 'public' discussions taking places through the local authorities, noticing the potential problems that the towns bring with them. Marches form protesters have took place, and it seems many residents within the area will do whatever they can to stop the eco communities being built.
The most high profile opposition to the proposal is leading British Architect Richard Rogers and calls the scheme one of the governments "Biggest mistakes", describing them as "no way environmentally sustainable". "It goes against everything apart from [the governments] own romantic concept of eco towns - they're certainly more [anti ecological] than the new towns. I don't know where this concept came from. It's been cooked up by house builders. If we are going to build eco towns, let's build them in our existing towns". (Brown and Green Don't Mix, Building Design, 2008).
This is the idea of urban extensions; where developments are produced as part of currently existing settlements. Primarily there was a requirement that all eco towns should be free standing entities, widely setting apart the eco towns from eco extensions as though they are two different concepts. In reality, the two are extremely similar, and it would seem that a mixture of two around the country would give the schemes a higher chance of being successful. This has been recognised by architecture firms involved in the eco town schemes. "We hope the government will be open to eco developments that focus on urban extensions as well", PRP Architects chairman Andy Von Bradsky explains (Brown and Green Don't Mix, Building Design, 2008). David Lock, of David Lock Associates has also stated that "We still need to repair and replenish our knackered old cities like London" (David Lock, 2008).
It is through older, poorer performing buildings that a lot of energy is being used through space heating and general maintenance. The total cost for whole eco town scheme, an approximated £3 million, could be used on updating and redeveloping poor housing currently on the market. Also, the fact that eco towns are only set to provide between 30% - 40% of affordable housing means they may not have as much an impact on the housing market as initially thought. The worry is that the eco label will not be enough to attract residents to the towns, and they will settle for cheaper conventional houses instead.
Another problem with the isolated eco town is the environmental damage created through the production and transport of new materials, site preparation, water usage and run off. The above processes will give the buildings a negative start in terms of the set carbon neutral levels, in turn making a fully sustainable town difficult to achieve.
These issues have been recognised, and there has been rumour that, 'The government is considering abandoning the use of the code for sustainable homes for its flagship eco towns programme' (Government may ditch its own green standard for eco towns, Building Magazine, 2008). The suggested level of output - 120Kwh/m² - means the homes would never actually reach carbon neutral level, unless all of the power provided came from renewable sources. Instead it has been suggested that the towns are measured against a European model of energy output per square metre (Government may ditch its own green standard for eco towns, Building Magazine, 2008).
A quote by Alan Cherry, chairman of Countryside Properties, rounds off the overall issue well.
"Nobody had yet defined what an eco-town is. It is far more important to improve our progress in all round sustainability rather than concentrate our efforts on 10 new eco towns. If you look around our towns and cities, there is still a lot of opportunity for regeneration. Wherever possible, we should be maximising the use of urban land. That should be the priority". (Brown and Green Don't Mix, Building Design, 2008).
CASE STUDY: THE HOCKERTON HOUSING PROJECT
The Hockerton Housing project was one of the first eco friendly villages constructed in the UK, gaining international recognition for its eco approach and advanced technologies. The project was England's first earth covered housing development, and was designed by Robert and Brenda Vale.
The project started in 1993, with a vision to create 5 eco friendly houses on a 25 acre agricultural site set just outside of Hockerton, Nottingham. The scheme consists of 4 three bed and 1 four bed self-built earth sheltered homes. It was the first earth sheltered development in the UK, and is built on sustainable and self-sufficient principles with net zero CO2 emissions, and very low environmental impact. The project was completed in October 1998.
Although the main focus of the project was to create self sustaining settlements, the whole focus was on a sustainable community. This was achieved by using as many natural resources as possible to complete everyday tasks. The surrounding land was used by the residents to cultivate crops and rear animals for food production, using a rota system to spread the load equally. All needs for basic living are provided for in the village, meaning commuting is kept to a minimum. Income is achieved through local trade with materials produced on site. An example of one of one the products is the 'Eco-ball', which acts as an eco friendly alternative to detergent. There are plans to produce an office within the grounds, to help run the business whilst keeping commuting to a minimum.
Sustainability at the housing project has been achieved by a range of technologies that are now very common and seen as a benchmark in environmental design. Rainwater conservation is achieved through guttering on the conservatories, on the south sides of the houses. The water is then filtered and made available as drinking water. For laundry and washing, water is stored in a reservoir excavated at the north side of the site. Sewage is collected and treated in a floating reed bed, which also provides a small eco system for wildlife. Careful and consistent maintenance means no unwanted growth occurs in the bed, leaving the system as efficient as possible.
Space heating is completely reliable passive solar heat gain, from the large south west facing windows and conservatory. This is achieved through super insulated housing techniques and the housing orientation. The south west positioning is to emphasise the afternoon sun, when it is at its warmest. The design provides self shading in the summer, keeping room temperature down and providing comfortable light levels.
Studies show that between 1998 and 1999, the total energy consumption at the Hockerton Housing Project was 20,500 kWh. This equates to just over 4000 kWh per household, at 11 kWh per day. In comparison, a similar size standard domestic house would use around 40,000 kWh per year, up to 10 times as much. There is up to 25% less energy consumption in summer from the winter, due to a decrease is artificial heat and lighting appliances being used.
The success from the scheme suggests that there is a real future for eco housing within Britain. However, as the scheme is only on a small scale and uses earth covered housing rather than conventional housing, it cannot be a direct reason to justify the new eco towns.
Another main reason to support this point is the positioning of the scheme. The project is on a large piece of land, and uses all the natural resources possible to become a success. Also, the majority of the residents jobs will be away from the eco town itself, meaning commuting levels will not be as low. The proposed eco towns are on a large scale, hence limiting the open space for activities such as crop cultivation and animal rearing. However this idea reflects the original ideas for the towns, where they were to be placed within currently green belt land, allowing for very large open sites. The housing performance should be at a similar level or it not better within the new eco towns, as technologies are up to fifteen years more advance.
One important factor to note is how the residents will affect the eco towns. On the whole the Hockerton project is as successful as it was an ambition of the residents to create an energy neutral settlement, in which they have been involved through designing and construction. The proposed eco towns will be used by residents who are merely open to the idea of sustainability, but may not understand the commitments to make the towns function correctly. This could be an important factor in whether the towns are successful or not.
CASE STUDY - HAMMARBY SJOSTAD, STOCKHOLM, SWEDEN
Situated at the south of Stockholm City Centre, Hammarby Sjöstad is one of Europe's leading, and largest eco towns. It is Gordon Browns main inspiration for the British eco town proposals in this country as he was very impressed when he visited the site. The land is next to the Hammarby Sjo Lake, and consisted of a disused polluted Brownfield site before planning and construction. The eco idea started in 1996, and was originally designed as an Olympic village to support Stockholm's bid for the 2004 Olympics. The city was to have a strong emphasis on ecology and environmental sustainability; this being one of the unique selling points for the city's bid. Although the bid failed, plans for the eco town went ahead, and construction on site is to be finished in 2015.
When the project is finally complete, it is thought that it will house up to 35,000 people. 9000 apartments will be built along with standard houses. In addition there are two state schools, a nursery and a preschool, a church, a doctor's surgery, a library and a ski slope. The whole site is 7.6 hectares, with the residential districts of the eco town set on the waterside wherever possible, and orientated to allow consistent natural light. A network of open green space exists on the site, preserving the natural landscape where possible.
The process for the eco village stems from Sweden's nationally acclaimed 'Green Welfare State' programme. Emphasis for the town was on the decontamination of the Brownfield site, along with an internal and effective transport system to reduce car use. The city has fully committed to the eco trend, setting targets that are twice as effective at energy production, energy conservation and waste recovery. It is all based around the consensus that certain aspects of city life are not political in Sweden, like cleaner water and air for example. Everybody in the country agrees on these things, allowing for an "extremely high degree of co-ordination between politicians, planners, architects, developers and engineers" (Kieran Long, 2008). It is with such qualities that the eco idea can succeed.
The whole scheme is much more relevant to the eco town proposals by Gordon Brown, and also suits the view of the public. Although on a large scale, the area is an extension to the existing city, rather than a complete new site as the early eco towns proposed. This also helps to support their ambition of a highly efficient transport system, as routes to and from the area currently exist. The town aims to have 80% of residents reaching work by public transport, foot or bicycle by 2010, and a car pooling system has also been established.
Both this scheme and Hockerton Project use the surrounding environment for sustainable activities wherever possible. Here, the abundance of water surrounding the site has allowed for a specialist sewage system that is driven by 3 main canals. These transport rainwater to the treatment plants where little waste is left over. Sludge from the water treatment plant goes towards producing bio fuel for the cars and buses around the site, along with energy to power around 1000 stoves. The proposed towns will have to produce similar specialised technologies to to take as much from the site as possible, in order to be successful and sustainable. However, the scheme does show that a high quality eco town can be produced in a large scale.
CASE STUDY : THE ECOVILLAGE, CURRUMBIN, QUEENSLAND, AUSTRALIA
Situated on the Southern end of the gold coast, The EcoVillage at Currumbin is Queensland most sustainable development, and is seen as a Blueprint for ecological developments around the world. In July 2009, it was awarded as 'the worlds' finest example of suburban development and best residential sub division' (The EcoVillage, 2008 , < http://theecovillage.com.au/site/index.php/village/2/>). The development has also been awarded The Real Estate Federations' Award for the Worlds' best Environmental Development. The whole village is built on 296 acres of land, and is separated into three distinct areas. These are determined by the difference in location and terrain.
District 1 - The Creek Ecohamlets
This area comprises of 40 residential buildings set on level land at the valleys base. The area is closest to the village centre, providing the heartbeat for the neighboring village areas.
Stage 2 - The Valley Terraces
This area is set on the face of the valley, on gently sloping sites that are nestled closely to the forest, allowing for an experience of rural living.
Set at the upmost point in the valley, The Highlands offer 5 stars living in a vast environment, nestled within and open forest.
Apart from the residential blocks, the village has all basic amenities within a small town centre. There is also a school, doctor's surgery and a gym. This helps cut down on any unnecessary commuting, as is seen in the previous case studies
Most noticeable of the villages' sustainable features is the amount of land dedicated to open space. Up to 80% of the 296 acres of land that the village is set on is open space. 50% of this figure is then dedicated to operating and maintaining an environmental reserve, conserving all wildlife in the area. Due to the land available in England, such expanses would never be possible. The main proposals looked at up to 40% of the site being open space, half the number in this eco village. For such spaces to exist there would be encroachments onto green belt land, which is the topic providing the majority of opposition to Gordon Browns Schemes.
One similarity to The EcoVillage is the climate. The site has constant temperatures ranging from 15°C to 25°C, with an average of 263 days of sunshine per year. Although allowing for comfortable interior temperatures all year round, it also means a large range of fruit and vegetables can be grown on site. This could be achieved within the sites in England, though growth may focus on staple vegetables such as the potato or carrot. It would further help cut down commuting on site and allow for the town to be self sufficient.
Do the Case Studies match the Theorys and Proposals?
The case studies provide us with an insight into the backbone of eco community design and construction, which mirrors the Eco town proposals from the government within this country. The features within all of the schemes are based around renewable energy, super insulated houses and a passion to address the importance of open space to create a light, permeable city with a personal well being through all of its residents. Each of the case studies contain features that are within the UK proposals. An example of this can be seen in the Hockerton housing project, where the residents are a very tight group and make decisions between themselves for the good of the community. The proposals too indicated that the towns where to have a select group of residents to make important decisions for the residents
Another of the major factors through both the proposals and case studies is the importance of transport, and keeping it to a minimum where possible. The proposals set out that one job per household would be within walking distance or a single bus journey. In Hockerton, it was important to try and produce an own form of income, there as to completely cut commuting for environmental and financial reasons. The other larger schemes contained the basic amenities within the towns themselves so commuting to nearby areas was optional rather than necessary. Such facilities are mentioned within the proposals, showing that the government is aware of the environmental impact of transport vehicles and the need to reduce their usage.
Is This a Good Thing?
The fact that that the proposals have many similarities with the successful eco communities around the globe is very positive. Since the proposals, a large amount of opposition has stemmed from the reasoning that the eco communities are just an excuse for large housing development on cheap greenbelt land. However, this begins to show evidence that the Government is serious about the scheme as a whole, and sees it as an important development in housing in this country. To further support this, the fact that the government has postponed some of the schemes due to their incompetence with the ideology of the eco town proves that it is a scheme that they want to get right. It is clear that the government recognises the importance of the schemes and the potential they have on the residential construction industry in the future.
Are eco towns the future of housing In Britain?
Although the proposals seem to only be at an experimental stage at the moment, I see them as a development that could be a blueprint for UK housing in the future. However, the eco town will continue to be developed through more use, eventually creating a standard that can be used in any part of the country, and on any site. The early stages of this can be seen now in the building industry, with stricter building regulations on new houses constantly being introduced to make houses perform better environmentally. For the moment eco towns will not prevent the growth of conventional housing estates or apartment blocks until they have been tried and tested and work as a successful concept.
The eco towns are set to have only a small effect on the country's carbon footprint, but it must be seen as a step in the right direction. With such developments taking place now, the technologies and ideologies used throughout both successful and unsuccessful schemes will act as a catalyst for further advances in the field. Supporting this point, the towns will be successful in a number of categories to do with eco living now as well as providing a purpose and future for UK housing.
This can be seen in the Hockerton housing scheme. The settlement was one of the first of its kind to be constructed and made international recognition. The technologies used throughout the scheme are that of the norm fifteen years on, proving to be a huge breakthrough in the area and inspiring similar projects. The current schemes proposed by the government are likely not to reach such heights, yet will no doubt be a reference for future schemes throughout the continent. Wayne Hemmingway, a fashion designer who sat on the governments eco- towns challenge panel says: "Just one eco-town would be great. If you want to change something for the better, you need one exemplar that is deliverable in order to change the people's hearts and minds" (Wayne Hemmingway, 2009).
My initial views against the proposals stemmed from the facts that a number of the town were going to encroach on free green bet land, or even be placed within a large area of it. It seems a total contradiction to the idea of an eco community, and has obviously caused uproar through the whole industry. The influx of increased car use within the green belt as well as extending current public transport routes to fit in with the eco towns would cause more problems than they would solve, and in turn be in no way sustainable. It is clear that for the ideas to succeed, they must utilize as much of the schemes as possible through eco extensions, making use of the existing and improving in every instance. This will also keep energy use through production to a minimum, helping to produce successful zero carbon settlements.
In a world constantly becoming more aware of the environments' needs and limits, an eco community is a positive approach to a response. Professionals are constantly learning new techniques and technologies to gain the best from natural resources, meaning the next project is likely to be more successful than the last. It is through a trial and error that we will reach 'perfection' in eco community design, and the proposals by Gordon Brown provide a perfect starting point. With any ambitious project opposition will always be a problem. But with a scheme that carries future importance for the development of eco design around the country, it must be fought against in a positive manner. If the eco towns eventually do go through the construction phase, it is vital that the schemes have been produced for the correct reasons, and with full commitment and desire. Failure to do so will produce merely another housing estate with eco credentials, and create more problems through the local societies than they will solve.
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Figure 1 - James Smile Click! (2009). Hockerton Housing Project [online]. [Accessed 22/03/2010]. Available from: <flickr.com/photos/smileclick/3729268608/>.
Figure 2 - HHP Limited (2003). The Energy Efficient Features of the Homes [online]. [Accessed 22/11/2009]. Available from: <http://www.energysavingtrust.org.uk/Publication-Download/?p=1>.
Figure 3 - HHP Limited (2003). Breakdown of Energy Consumption, House 4 [online]. [Accessed 22/11/2009]. Available from: <http://www.energysavingtrust.org.uk/Publication-Download/?p=1>.
Figure 4 - HHP Limited (2003). Daily Electricity Consumption, House 4 [online]. [Accessed 22/11/2009]. Available from: <http://www.energysavingtrust.org.uk/Publication-Download/?p=1>.
Figure 5 - CABE (2009). Ariel view of Hammarby Sjostad [online]. [Accessed 18/02/2010]. Available from: <http://www.cabe.org.uk/case-studies/hammarby-sjostad?photos=true>.
Figure 6 - Truant Magazine (2009). Hammarby Sjostad [online]. [Accessed 18/02/2010]. Available from: <http://truantmagazine.wordpress.com/page/3/>.
Figure 7 - The EcoVillage (2009). Location of The Ecovillage [online]. [Accessed 06/04/2010]. Available from: <http://theecovillage.com.au/site/index.php/village/index/3>.
Figure 8 - The EcoVillage (2009). Image of Village centre [online]. [Accessed 06/04/2010]. Available from: <http://theecovillage.com.au/site/index.php/village/index/3>.
Figure 9 - The EcoVillage (2009). Village Centre Masterplan [online]. [Accessed 06/04/2010]. Available from: <http://theecovillage.com.au/site/index.php/village/index/3>.