Green Building Blog

low cost eco-building

Mutual gain? Housing associations working with community-led housing groups July 18, 2016

Filed under: Britain,Building and environmental campaigns,Cost of housing — naturalbuild @ 10:49 am

Ruth Hayward and Jenny Pickerill

Community-led housing groups can be brilliant partners for housing associations in developing new homes. They bring with them a ready group of tenants, a variety of skills and a keenness to develop new forms of housing, but they tend to lack the expertise of finding sites and the investment capital that housing associations often have. The number of community-led house building projects in Britain is slowly increasing with the most recent completion of LILAC (in Leeds) and Lancaster Co-Housing (in Lancaster).

DSC_3902

Our research, conducted over the last two years with community-led housing groups some of whom were working with Housing Associations and many who were keen to do so in the future, has identified a number of opportunities for such collaborations. As a result we wanted to pose ten friendly questions to Housing Associations about how they understand and approach working with community-led housing groups.

  1. Why work with co-housing groups and housing co-ops?

Co-housing groups and housing co-ops bring a great deal to housing projects – an established group of tenants, new models of housing, huge volunteer capacity, access to grants, mixed ownership models and boundless enthusiasm. Housing associations offer these groups’ site finding, investment capital, experience in navigating planning and, often, contracted builders. For these community-led groups, working with a housing association can enable their housing project to include affordable housing through, for example, accessing Homes and Communities Agency funding to build a mixed tenancy community. For housing associations such an alliance enables involvement in new housing types, such as senior co-housing, which are potentially far more appropriate and sought after than current sheltered housing models.

  1. What do you think co-housing groups and housing co-ops are like?

While some of these housing groups might at first glance appear to be stereotypical environmental activists, they are rarely so easy to pigeonhole. Community-led housing groups often include numerous professionals or retired professionals with broad skill sets and community activists with relevant experience in making change happen. Although at first they will not know housing policy language it won’t take them long to learn it. In the best practice examples housing associations had used this activist ability to lobby for planning permission, generate PR and gain neighbourhood support.

  1. What criteria do you have for which groups and tenants you work with?

The criteria of who can live in the final housing development needs to be explicitly stated for all concerned. There appeared at times to be a miscommunication between housing associations and community-led groups about what these criteria really meant for, for example, family members of elderly relatives who wanted to live together.

  1. At what stage do you start working with community-led groups?

Housing associations are exceptionally skilled at finding suitable building sites. Many groups we spoke with talked of wasting significant time searching for sites and being impressed and grateful at the speed and ease at which a housing association located and purchased a site. Once community groups have established membership, determined their vision and decided on their site criteria they are in a good position to work with housing associations. At this stage their expectations are still being developed, so they are able to modify and evolve their plans with the housing association

  1. What structures of liaison and communicating are used to work with co-housing groups and housing co-ops?

Communication worked well with community-led housing groups when the housing association staff member tasked with liaison worked with the project through the whole process, was relatively senior, and was able to identify what decisions the community groups could influence and which it could not. Poor communication appeared to happen when housing associations allocated increasingly junior staff to be the point of contact as the project progressed.

Community

  1. How does the project management approach take account of timeframes and workloads?

Community-led housing groups are willing to invest significant time and energy into their housing project, but this time and energy is not limitless. Goodwill was undermined in some collaborations we researched by assumptions that community groups would do much of the work but then not be consulted about timeframes. The pace of the development needs to be mutually agreed and housing associations need to be very clear about their expectations.

  1. How are key principles agreed?

All housing projects have some key principles whether that be affordability, reducing ecological impact, or ensuring local participation. These fundamental principles are best agreed very early on between housing associations and community groups, along with early discussion about how these principles will be achieved. It is especially important to mutually agree the detail of these principles because often concepts such as ecological housing can have multiple meanings.

  1. Are you prepared to let groups take responsibility for the majority of decisions?

In the most successful collaborations community-led groups retained some autonomy to create their housing project in a way that fulfilled their values and aspirations. Those who worked with housing associations often felt that they lost control of the project, as they were not consulted about numerous decisions.

  1. How do you keep to budget?

For community-led housing groups one of the biggest risks in working with housing associations is the lack of control over budgets. Community groups experienced costs going up without prior agreement or explanation and it was unclear who had overall financial responsibility. There is a need to clarify early on who is responsible for what costs such as site purchase, planning fee, site security, legal fees etc. and to stay within agreed budgets. Staying within agreed budgets is important as it is often the community groups’ money that is being spent, as once they have moved in they will pay off the money paid up front by the housing association, and unexpected significant costs can cause problems for the group.

  1. How does co-housing and co-operative housing fit the values of your organisation?

There are significant overlaps in the aims of many housing associations and community-led housing groups in seeking to build affordable ecological housing for local residents, particularly through a process of inclusion and participation. Housing associations can significantly benefit from working with already formed community groups who bring enthusiasm, skills, and finance to a project. With honest dialogue about shared values, aims and responsibilities, such a collaboration can reduce the workload of housing associations, produce innovative appropriate housing and secure neighbourhood support.

Ruth Hayward is a housing activist based in Newcastle Upon Tyne and Jenny Pickerill is a Professor of Environmental Geography at the University of Sheffield.

 

My house and home: Living in an eco-house August 23, 2013

We have lived in our new eco-house for six years now and at time progress has been very slow – we are only just feeling like we have got it how we want it to be. But it has also been far more transformative that I had imagined, knowing where my water and electricity comes from and where my waste goes has made me far more conscious about how I use resources. There is still something wonderful about having a sun-heated bath, and rejoicing when it rains because it fills the rainwater harvester. We had long held a dream to build somewhere that not only reduced our environmental impact and facilitated a more environmentally-friendly lifestyle, but would also dramatically reduce our running costs and increase our resilience to climatic uncertainty.

80    IMG_1349

Deciding to build an eco-house with my mother generated a surprisingly number of shocked responses from friends and family. They variously thought Maggie to be too old (she was only in her late 50’s) for such a challenge, and that she would cramp my life choices. Few understood how our skills, ideas and dreams complemented each other. Maggie had explored the idea of living in existing communities and we met with others interested in establishing new eco-co-housing schemes. But we realised we did not want to wait for the slowness of collaborative enterprises and that living together would provide enough challenges, and entail new ways of working together as it was.

DSC_0340    wood stove comp

We have taken a very pragmatic approach to the build. Inspired by the Centre for Alternative Technology and the Autonomous House we started with a utopian vision which was quickly scaled down. Our choices have been very much shaped by financial and practical limitations and a desire to complete the project so that we could get on with living the way we wanted to. We were determined to prove that older people and those with full-time jobs could still self-build and be eco. Although we had a sizeable budget it was also only slightly more than the average house price and we had no back-up plan.

DSC_0304   house 2

This budget bought us a small (10th of an acre) triangle plot in rural Leicesterhire, near Melton Mowbray. By facing south the house makes the most of passive solar heating through large A rated timber-framed windows, with thick dense block walls (made from 100% recycled aggregate) creating a high thermal mass (with sheepswool insulation in the roof) and reducing noise and vibrations from the abutting railway line. We wanted to build a house that was cheap to run and simple to maintain, only using technology we could understand and if necessary learn how to fix. The house remains at around 17 C without heating, even in winter, though we do have a Clearview wood stove as a back-up. Our solar thermal evacuated tube arrays also work all year round, and when the sun is not shining we heat water either by the wood stove or an efficient electric immersion. Our rainwater harvester feeds the toilets (low-flush IFO CERA from the Green Building Store) and washing machine, and we have low-flow showers to reduce water use. Energy use is much reduced by an induction cooker, A+ appliances, low-energy lighting and the bright aspect reduces the need for lights to be on. A couple of years ago we also installed photovoltaic panels and now (averaged over the whole year) we generate roughly the same electricity as we use.

DSC_0037  house 1

We tried, wherever possible, to source reclaimed, local, and untreated material. Our reclaimed pitch-pine floors came from an old Liverpool factory via the local salvage yard, our reclaimed-pine kitchen units and internals doors were made in Lincolnshire, our Douglas Fir deck has been left untreated, our jute and wool carpets were ordered from the local shop. We, of course, carried on using existing furniture, rescued some pieces from a tip, made some new pieces with help from my father, and added colour by painting tiles ourselves.

DSC_0359   DSC_0350

We developed some golden rules during the build: we would choose environmentally-friendly products over visual looks; we could not buy anything for the house without mutual agreement; we would worry more about cost than time taken to complete things; local suppliers and workforce were best; just because it was not the conventional way of doing things did not mean it would not work.

We struggled, at times, to communicate to others what we meant by eco: it took a while for my dad to understand reclaimed, native, or FSC wood and eco-varnish; the plumbers questioned what our washing would turn out like if we used rainwater; and the painters objected to using Osmo and ECOS paint. Early on we met plenty of patronising builders who advised us to ‘forget all that eco-stuff’ and raised eyebrows when they understood we were two women building a house. But with a highly supportive eco-architect (Andrew Yeats of EcoArc) and a knowledgeable project manager willing to engage with eco-ideas we eventually found suppliers and stockists of the things we needed. My partner, friends and family were invaluable in helping is complete the build – with seemingly endless shelving to put up, a woodshed to build, furniture to strip, and gardens paths to lay. Since moving in a local carpenter has agreed to drop off his off-cuts which we use to supplement our homemade newspaper logs and purchased logs for the wood stove, and a neighbour has offered us free seedlings for our garden. Our house has started all sorts of conversations and we have often invited in passers by who have stopped to ask us questions.

 House Nov 08    DSC_0362 

At times we have to remind ourselves why we made certain compromises (often due to a lack of money or plot space). Now the project is complete we have the confidence in our choices to wonder if we couldn’t have been bolder in some of our earlier decisions. Externally the house has a big visual impact on the landscape (ironically a result of the planning permission which stipulated that it replicate the look of the previous house demolished by Network Rail). We have tried to mitigate this impact by covering the lower external walls with red cedar cladding and choosing a dark slate-effect roof (using Ardesia recycled tyre roofing), but we could have been more radical in our design. We now have the confidence to follow our gut instincts and compromise less in our search for environmental solutions. We only hope that our house will inspire others to follow their dreams too.

DSC_0301

A verion of this article first appeared in Permaculture Magazine

 

Best books on eco-housing August 29, 2012

The Birth of an EcovillageZero-carbon Homes: A Road MapGreen Architecture: The Art of Architecture in the Age of Ecology (Architecture & Design)Local Sustainable Homes: How to Make Them Happen in Your Community

Having just spent the last two months reading about eco-housing I have compiled a list of what I consider to be the best books about housing, home and eco-housing. These books encompass a broad interest in the physical architectural design of an eco-house, alongside the important social elements of how people live together and communities function.

 

Learning from Lilac: Low Impact Affordable living in Leeds, Britain March 5, 2012

Filed under: Britain,Building materials,Cost of housing,Inspiring examples — naturalbuild @ 8:22 pm

Apologies to those not in Britain, but there is a really interesting workshop coming up on 10th May in Leeds. Lilac stands for Low Impact Living Affordable Community. It is a member-led co-operative housing society building an affordable, cohousing community in Leeds. They are using a co-housing design approach to build 20 houses and a common house from strawbale and timber through a prefabricated product called Modcell (enabling cheap, quick, collective and local construction).

They have just started building (on a 0.7 hectare site in inner city Leeds) and there is a lot to be learnt from this project. In particular they have deliberately organised the project to remain affordable in perpetuity using a mutual home ownership model. In effect each resident pays just 35% of their net household income towards the costs of living at Lilac (and thus if you earn more you pay more). This is not just paid as rent however, all residents co-own the project (through equity shares) and as such all have a vested interest to make it work and maintain it. In order to ensure that the project was within their available budget they have had to make compromises, such as using gas as an energy source, and only aiming to achieve Level 4 of the UK Government’s Code for Sustainable Homes. This was done in part, however, to balance the energy needs of occupants with the cost limitations and is indicative of a participatory and considered approach to low impact and lost cost building.

Lilac also received a £420,000 grant from the Homes and Communities Agency (UK Government) and have funded the bulk of their initial costs through a loan from the bank Triodos.

The group have spent several years reaching this point and have spent considerable time ensuring that the process of the project was democratic and inclusive. They have developed several ‘community agreements’ which all residents have to agree to abide by and include forgoing have tumble dryers and dishwashers in their personal units, using the communal washing machines, and outlines how the communal spaces will be managed. They are also restricting the number of cars on site, insisting on car pooling and have tried to ‘design out’ carbon intensive activities. Overall, this is an exciting project and definitely one to follow. I am not personally involved, however, several of my long time friends are central to the project so I might be a little biased!

++++ Learning from Lilac: An invitation to a day workshop ++++

In association with the UK Cohousing Network (www.cohousing.org.uk)

Thursday 10th May 2012. 10am – 5pm
School of Geography, University of Leeds. University Road. Leeds. LS2 9JT.

ABOUT THE DAY
Lilac is hosting a day to share its learning to help other similar projects develop their ideas into reality. This day is aimed at those who wish to set up housing projects who have an emphasis on being – community-focused, low impact, co-operative, affordable, member-led, mutual. Topics in the morning will briefly cover:

.       The Lilac project in brief so far – key milestones, challenges, successes
.       How to go about finding land
.       Options for financing your project
.       Developing good group process and making decisions collectively
.       Attracting members
.       The Project Manager and what they will do for you
.       The Quantity Surveyor and what they will do for you
.       The Solicitor and dealing with legal issues
.       Ways forward, networking and supporting projects

Additional topics will be covered in the afternoon reflecting the interests of participants. Please use the form below to state the topics you would like to see covered (for example Lilac’s Mutual Home Ownership model, Lilac’s environmental strategy, grant finding, what is cohousing, the role of a common house).

+++ To Book your place +++

Places are limited to 30 participants. To book your place please send a cheque for £10 payable to ‘The University of Leeds’ and the booking form to: Paul Chatterton, School of Geography, University of Leeds, University Road, Leeds, LS2 9JT.

For further information about the day contact: learning@lilac.coop

[Leicester, 5th March 2012]

 

New self build sustainable housing scheme in Devon, UK December 21, 2011

The Land Society is setting up a new scheme in Devon (south west UK) to support local rural communities to develop energy efficient, affordable, sustainable homes. In their own words, “as part of The Land Society’s purpose of rebuilding rural economies we have identified that one major problem is the high cost of housing compared to rural wages. We are therefore working with the Community Land Trust (CLT) organisation, a regional Further Education college and Transition Town Totnes to develop Community Land Trust (CLT) developments of village self-build sustainable homes”.

This is a really interesting approach in that they are combining affordability with ecological design and training and skills required to build. It is focused not just on providing quality eco-housing, but in doing so as part of reviving rural economies. This social enterprise approach wants to avoid affordable housing being imposed on rural villages by external developers and instead wants local residents themselves to collaborate and build the houses that they need. They define ‘local residents’ as those who meet local-needs housing criteria (agreed with the local community) basically;
– children of local, long-time residents,
– have pre-school children, or children in local schools,
– work locally, especially in core/low paid services, e.g; education, healthcare, agriculture

In terms of cost they calculate that “ The cost of land, materials, training course and legal/planning will typically be about £85k, with a deposit of £5 -10k in stages, then balance payable quarterly in stages from an arranged mortgage. In addition the self-building work is valued at between £40-50,000, which becomes part of their equity in the property (or provides funds to complete the home if required). Members will typically own 60% equity in a home valued at about £225,000, and the balance will remain in the CLT for further social investment”. Although not necessarily ‘cheap’ the securing of the properties into a CLT means that they will remain available as affordable housing in the area permanently. They are not designed to be houses through which people make a profit and move on. The investment of considerable ‘sweat equity’ (working yourself to build your house) will also hopefully reduce the numbers of people who want simply to make money rather than invest time and energy in building rural communities.

In terms of design they have come up with a simple design intended specifically for self-build, which incorporates the following features:

  • Advanced passive solar design incorporating very high insulation (straw bale walls and sheep’s wool roof insulation) and thermal mass (rammed earth) for very low additional heating need
  • Straw bales rendered with clay have much higher fire resistance than timber framed houses, and provide excellent sound insulation.
  • Locally sourced, natural materials and simple, mainly hand tools build (including gabion rather than concrete foundations)
  • Adaptable with optional extras to suit individual families and site conditions
  • Flexible exterior proportions and finishes to blend with local vernacular
  • Designed to lifetime standards
  • Heating provided by wood burning stoves and solar hot water
  • Solar PV
  • Either dry compost loos or reed bed system for reduced use of water and sewerage
  • Rainwater harvesting
  • Simple site layout with minimal hard landscaping, keeping cars to one edge

If you live in south Devon and would like to be part of this pilot project, or if you’d like to be kept informed of progress, email them at selfbuildhomes@landsociety.com

 

Kailash Eco-village, Portland, Oregon, USA April 24, 2011

Filed under: Cost of housing,Inspiring examples,Notes from fieldwork,Photographs,USA — naturalbuild @ 7:06 am

 

I had the great opportunity to stay at Kailash Eco-village for ten days in August last year. It was the last stop on my trip around eco-buildings in the USA and it did not disappoint. Kailash shares some similarities with Los Angeles Eco-Village – in that it is a deliberately urban project which enables people to rent eco-units and participate in some collective activities. What was most appealing was the explicit focus on affordability – using a rental rather than owner model.

Situated in south east Portland in what a realtor might call an ‘up and coming’ neighbourhood (Creston-Kenilworth), Kailash took over an old 32-unit apartment building built in 1959 on a one acre site. Bought by Ole and Maitri Ersson in 2007 they explicitly wanted to create an affordable and accessible way for those on low incomes to participate in a sustainable community. In effect it allows people to try out community living without the risks (or barrier) of capital investment.

All the units are one-bedroom apartments with a typical living area of 565 square foot. Units can be rented at approximately $650 a month in 2010, low for the area. They have also added a dorm room “as not all residents are able to afford their own private unit” (www.kailashecovillage.com). There are currently 48 residents, ten of whom were resident when the block was bought. Those who have joined since the Ersson’s took over have had to pass a selection procedure and agree to certain stipulations.

 

Inside a refurbished unit and a typical floor plan

Each apartment is gradually being remodelled using ecological principles in order to increase energy efficiency – using eco-materials, fitting low-flow shower heads, installing water metres in each unit, adding extra insulation and double-pained windows. They are experimenting with materials, trying to balance low cost with ecological properties. For example, they trialled using carpets but the wear has been too high and so have moved to using laminate flooring (which uses more glue but is likely to last longer). Fundamentally however the very act of retrofitting rather than demolishing has proved both ecological and cost-effective.

There are a great many other future projects which Ole and Maitri would like to do as Kailash is only three years old; including rainwater harvesting and an exterior make-over. The whole block faces south and so benefits from passive solar but they are hoping to install external blinds to prevent overheating in summer.

 

Bike racks and communal compost

Kailash have deliberately tried to create lots of different types of communal space. There is a community meeting room with a large kitchen and another next to it. There is a laundry room which has storage spaces, post boxes, recycling bins (including items not normally recycled like plastics, styrofoam and shredded paper), and communal equipment like a vacuum cleaner. There is also a separate garden and tool room. There is collective bike storage and composting. Other areas like the balconies and walkways are also explicitly considered communal and this is used for things like a ‘freebie’ shelf where people put things they no longer want for others to use. Community is encouraged through people encountering each other in these spaces, getting to know their neighbours, a weekly community night and work parties. Perhaps most interestingly, however, was the decision by Ole and Maitri to not have collective decision making. Instead Maitri is the Community Manager and they make all decisions. This has simplified and speeded-up their ability to get Kaliash off the ground and to make renovations.

   

A variety of communal spaces: balcony and walkways, garden seats, community meeting room

Gardens space is segmented into individual plots (ten are available in total), with communal tables and chairs. Gardens are important here to the extent that one of the first changes was to turn an old swimming pool into a new terraced garden area. Encouraging gardening is core to the eco-village and with this is mind they made the choice to limit the amount of communal garden – instead hoping that individual plots would encourage people to be creative and invest time in their own space. It seems to have worked. All lawn (bar one tenants) has been turned into active garden and despite being small the gardens are a wonder of colour, production (strawberries, tomatoes, bees) and calm retreat from the city. This emphasis on creating a beautiful place is evident throughout the site and is an important part of Kailash – making eco-living seem attractive and appealing, a ‘shining example’ for others to follow.

 

The whole site is arranged to encourage tenants to participate, to encourage people to get involved, but not to penalise if they do not. There is an interesting balance here between rules which might enforce ‘green behaviour’ and the benefits of people deciding to take green actions themselves. The eco-village has mission and values statements which encourage residents to value ‘the diversity of our community’, ‘regular community gatherings’, ‘common facilities’, ‘frugal use of energy and resources’ and ‘human powered transport and its infrastructure’ among many other things. There is a monthly pot-luck vegan meal and veganism is encouraged but not enforced. Likewise ample bike storage is offered, external clothes lines and wooden clothes dryers are communal, and car parking spaces limited. It is a subtle process of leading by example.

On the other hand individual unit water metres are gradually being installed to encourage reductions in water use, and tenants have to commit to recycling as part of their rental agreement and agree that all communal spaces are vegan (including the garden which excludes the keeping of chickens). Overall, the emphasis is on behaviour change rather than relying upon the ecological features of the building to reduce energy use. Many of these changes are also low-cost, so cycling rather than driving, not using a tumble dryer and reducing water use all save money.

When I first arrived at Kailash I had struggled to understand how it was a ‘village’ or a ‘community’ in the sense that I had understood other eco-projects I had visited. But after ten days I really began to value the different approach taken here. Everyone I had met had been immediately welcoming but there was also a beautiful slowness in getting to know Kailash and understand it’s perhaps more subtle sense of community. Its emphasis on affordability has also opened it up to a more diverse range of people than other projects, and although the small size of the units might ultimately limit who can stay (as in there are limited possibilities for large families) this also creates a much needed space for singles, couples and the younger and older generations.

There is also merit in not using all the collective energy of a place to make each decision and allowing others to take the lead. It opens community to those who are busy and committed to work or projects elsewhere. Perhaps this does lead to a slight sense of disengagement for some residents, but it is unclear to me whether the lack of engagement in work parties (for example) is an effect of the lack of individual ownership, or participation in decision making, or simple reflects the slow process of growing a community. My experience of Kaliash suggests that this divergent form of being an eco-village opens up sustainable living to more possibilities and far more people.

For further information about Kailash eco-village see their website: www.kailashecovillage.com

[23rd April 2011]

 

Report on key findings from research: Affordable Eco-homes March 26, 2011

Filed under: Cost of housing,Politics of building,Project outputs and findings — naturalbuild @ 3:35 pm

 

I have written an initial report from the research project looking at ways we can make eco-housing more affordable. Please download a copy from here: Eco-homes Report 2011 (1 MB). Please also feel free to redistribute it.

You can also download higher resolution versions: Eco-homes Report 2011 (3 MB), Eco-homes Report 2011 (12 MB)

The key findings about low cost eco-homes are that:

~ We need both a technical assessment of materials and methods used, and a social assessment of people’s choices and decisions in order to understand eco-housing.

~ There is a diverse variety of eco-housing worldwide. The definition used in this report is that an eco-building minimises resource use (in construction and life-cycle) while also providing a comfortable environment in which to live. The USA has a long-standing and established eco-building culture, whereas eco-building has only existed in Thailand in the last decade.

~ We already have the technical knowhow, and many working examples, to build resilient eco-houses in Britain. However, ecological building methods remain marginalised and often misunderstood.

~ Eco-building will only be adopted if it offers what people demand from a house and that they can live how they want to within it.

~ The success of eco-housing is only as great as the behaviour of the people who live in it. Construction and technology cannot compensate for excessive energy use.

~ There remains a perception that building an eco-house is more costly, whereas figures for the lifecycle costs of buildings have proved that in the long term they are actually cheaper. More investment may be required upfront but it pays off in costing less to run throughout its lifetime.

~ Living sustainably has been associated with forgoing (doing without) many elements of contemporary life. However, a good eco-house is actually more comfortable.

~ It is not technology, or even politics, which is holding us back in building more eco-houses, it is deep rooted cultural and social conventions in how we live and what we expect houses to do for us.

~ Choices of building materials are made according to complex compromises between cost, local availability, skills and expertise required, suitability for climate, ecological properties, maintenance requirements and cultural attachments to certain forms. Thus eco-materials need to satisfy many criteria before they are adopted.

~ Eco-building involves more than technical changes to construction; it involves cultural shifts in how we consider our houses and homes.  There are dynamic relationships between physical structures and individual behavioural practices, culture, history and place.

~ There are many simple ways to make eco-housing more affordable, including:

  • Reducing the size
  • Simple design and avoiding the use of unnecessary technology
  • Designing affordability in at the start
  • Designing in modular units so that a building can be extended at a later stage
  • Internal open plan design to enable maximum flexibility
  • Using the space between buildings
  • Building collectively
  • Sharing common facilities and infrastructure
  • Sharing the cost of the land
  • Avoiding the use of experts
  • Participating in the debate about new planning regulations to ensure that eco-building is permissible
  • Careful choice of materials
  • Less durable houses
  • Using pre-fabricated elements or existing structures
  • Avoiding a purist approach
  • Ensuring design is aesthetically pleasing
  • Using hybrid combinations of materials

~ Planning favours buildings which conform to existing styles and norms and building regulations need to be negotiated.

~ Eco-building is gendered in that is it perceived to be a male domain where men are presumed to be better builders, more men than women actually build and women find their ideas and contributions to eco-building are often belittled. Socially constructed notions of gender have determined that strength is the most important attribute required for building, which is not true.

~ The replication of eco-build techniques worldwide has less to do with whether the build actually worked or its cost, but is influenced by the less quantifiable factors of foreign importation of ideas, the appeal of the aesthetics, open discussion of failure, a critical mass of support, assertive pioneers, and people understanding how their existing houses work.

~ Further research work is needed on how people understand their houses, how eco-build approaches are replicated, post-occupancy evaluations and the cultural dimensions of eco-building.

[25th March 2011]