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The Carbon Neutral Findhorn Eco Village.

We first became involved with the Eco Village Project in 1986 when we moved up to Findhorn in Morayshire to complete RIBA part 2 and the scheme was the subject of our architectural diploma thesis project. That one-year student academic proposal quickly turned into a on going twenty year hands on design and build-as-you-go project, as we became resident community architects and novice builders within the rapidly expanding eco village building programme.

 
Bag End ecological housing cluster
 
In that pioneering period my architect’s ego was severely pummelled, as I realised architectural students know very little about the practicalities, intricacies and high level of skilled craftsmanship required to create a building of any quality. As I hammered my own thumb and crow-barred out bent nails from split timber my architect’s ego shrank to the size of a timid door mouse. I came to admire and respect the largely undervalued skill level of the building profession.
 
Some twenty years later we are still working on the Findhorn Eco Village Project (along with many others) up holding my deep respect for the on site building process. Developing mutual empathy and constructively supportive relationships between client, architect and building team has become increasing important in achieving a high quality finished building, via a process that is mutually up lifting and of benefit to all parties involved.
 
Happy self builders making the timber frame elements
 

The Eco-Village Project

 

The 400 Community members who live and work in this rural area of Scotland come from over 40 countries to join an experiment in discovering what is necessary for joyful, sustainable living. The built environment is gradually growing to reflect shared ecological, social and spiritual values, working with the simple principle of not taking more away from the Earth than one gives back.

The Eco-village is moving toward sustainability by putting a high priority on:  * ecological building  * renewable energy systems  * local organic food production  *sustainable economics  * social and family support schemes.*  It is a constantly evolving model providing solutions to human and social needs while at the same time working in partnership with the environment to offer an enhanced quality of life for all.
 

Having purchased the 35-acre caravan park the intention is to replace the ageing stock of mobile homes with permanent ecologically sound buildings.  Many ecological buildings have been erected to date, including the completion of several housing clusters, a guest lodge, a building for the youth programme, and a retrofitting project. 40 additional homes have been built on the ‘Field of Dreams’ as individual self-build projects. R & J’s house and Nick & Henrietta’s house featured her are part of this self build housing programme.

 

Renewable Energy Systems

 
Solar, Wind and Wood. A local company Appropriate Energy Systems (AES) was set up producing solar panels, and many systems have been installed for heating water. New buildings also incorporate passive solar design. A 75 kW wind turbine and four 200 kW wind turbines have was erected to form the Findhorn Bay Wind Farm which now supplies the renewable electricity needs. Increased use of wood from sustainable managed forests for space and water heating has reduced the projects reliance on fossil fuels.                            
 
One of 5 wind turbines of the eco village wind farm
 

Local Organic Food Production.

 

A ‘Community Supported Agriculture Scheme’ called Earthshare, based on organic and biodynamic farming methods, has been established to increase the cultivation of local produce. The scheme has expanded from one acre to 25 acres, spread over two sites, and currently provides more than 50% of the community's fresh food requirements and supplies 312 individual households. While Earthshare provides for the fruit and vegetable needs of the community, organic milk, cheeses, eggs and meat are produced by partner community project at Wester Lawrenceton Farm, which covers a 65-acre area.

 

Recycling.

 

The project has implemented an extensive recycling programme (metal, glass, paper, batteries, and a clothing bank) and has been instrumental in encouraging local authorities to expand the range of recycling services to the local area.

 
Passive solar eco house on the Field of Dreams
 

Sustainable Economics.

 

Over the last 40 years the Findhorn Foundation Community has diversified into more than 50 different local businesses initiatives, providing a valuable insight into ‘right livelihood’ sustainable living. There are also two LETS schemes, and an Industrial and Provident Society, which assist investors wishing to support community projects.

 
Octaganol zinc roofed eco house
 

Nick & Henrietta’s House.

 

The new 8 sided conical roofed house is a low embodied energy, part recycled steel frame and part timber frame, timber clad, super insulated, vapour permeable structure with a prominent south facing, passive solar conservatory buffer space.

 
The compact 8 sided octagon plan with 12.4m diameter on a tight site forms a minimal exposed surface envelop to accommodate a three bedroom home with an additional art room / study, open plan kitchen dining living room, a utility room and an entrance draft lobby.
 
The house is made from locally harvested un-treated soft wood, clad with Scottish Larch and insulated with efficient kingspan Insulation and Warmcell cellulose recycled newspaper insulation within the hydroscopic vapour permeable building fabric.
 
E argon filled double glazing forms the conservatory envelope and that in turn opens up to the main living spaces via large 3.7m wide bio fold double glazed doors allowing valuable warm sun light to penetrate into the heart of the house.
 
The open plan double height living space on the ground floor houses an efficient Hwam Vivaldi wood burning stove providing a strong social focus within the large space and acts a as winter counter poise to the passive solar gain of the conservatory space.
 
Non toxic water based wall emulsion paints and OS natural stains through out the house and OS hard wax / oiled oak timber floors to the living room have contributed to the light spacious and healthy feel of the interior.
 

Appropriate Energy Systems AES solar hot panels mounted on the standing seam zinc roof provide most of the domestic hot water heated by the sun.

 
All household black and grey sewage is treated in the eco village solar aquatic biological sewage treatment plant. The Eco Village community wind farm turbine supplies the house’s renewable electricity. 
 

As ever the greatest area of learning & enjoyment has been the supportive working relationships between the architect, client and John Duncan Construction throughout the procurement and building process. Working on these two particular houses and many others we have particularly enjoyed working with John Talbott the Eco Village director and the diverse range of individual community members. Work is still ongoing and it’s a privilege to be involved with this inspiring project. For more info look out for Johns book  ‘’Simply Build Green’’ by Findhorn Press or the on going Discovery TV Channel series ‘’ Village Green’’ which reviews the process of building part of the eco village over 15 documentary programmes.

 
Living room inside a Bag End eco house

 

Building Community
 
"There is hardly anything more appealing,
yet apparently more elusive for humankind, than the
prospect of living in harmony with nature and each other."

Diane and Robert Gilman

 
Inside the 12 sided community centre building
 

The Findhorn Foundation residential community welcomes more than 4,000 residential visitors every year, from more than fifty countries. Participants in courses come to understand and experience life in a community where relationships between individuals, and with nature and spirit are honoured. A major part of the Foundation's success lies in creating a genuine and vibrant sense of community as much as it does in building innovative structures. Today it is at the heart of the largest intentional community in the UK and the centre of the rapidly developing Eco-Village Project. The Eco-Village project received a 'best practice' designation from the United Nations Centre for Human Settlements (Habitat).                 

 

Energy Conservation & Eco Building Systems.

 

The Eco-Village Project originally developed the unique energy efficient construction system now, commonly called the 'breathing wall' or more correctly ‘vapour permeable’ structure using natural and non-toxic materials which allows the fabric of a building to beneficially interact with people, to moderate humidity and air quality. The buildings generally have 2.5 times the insulation level required by Scottish building regulations. This has dramatically decreased energy use and increased the percentage contribution of solar and other renewable energies.

 
The project has also experimented with straw bale construction and remains open to more new and innovative ecological solutions for the built environment. The publication of 'Simply Build Green', the UK's first technical guide to ecological housing by John Talbott, based on the projects own experience, has helped the Eco-Village Project become a major resource for environmental education.
 
Inside Krista's barrell house
 

Biological Sewage Treatment

 

To improve the cycle of water use for the settlement the project has built its own wastewater treatment facility called the ‘Living Machine.’ This system uses natural non-chemical biological systems to clean sewage and creates a mini-ecosystem within a greenhouse environment, mimicking nature's own water cleaning system.

 

Recycling.

 

The project has implemented an extensive recycling programme (metal, glass, paper, batteries, and a clothing bank) and has been instrumental in encouraging local authorities to expand the range of recycling services to the local area.

 

Biological Sewage Treatment.

 

To improve the cycle of water use for the settlement the project has built its own wastewater treatment facility called the ‘Living Machine.’ This system uses natural non-chemical biological systems to clean sewage and creates a mini-ecosystem within a greenhouse environment, mimicking nature's own water cleaning system.

 

Local Organic Food Production.

 

A ‘Community Supported Agriculture Scheme’ called Earthshare, based on organic and biodynamic farming methods, has been established to increase the cultivation of local produce. The scheme has expanded from one acre to 25 acres, spread over two sites, and currently provides more than 50% of the community's fresh food requirements and supplies 312 individual households. While Earthshare provides for the fruit and vegetable needs of the community, organic milk, cheeses, eggs and meat are produced by partner community project at Wester Lawrenceton Farm, which covers a 65-acre area.

 
Rogers round barrell house made from a whisky vat
 
R & J House - Plot 9 The Field.
 

The house is a low embodied energy, timber frame, timber clad, super insulated, vapour permeable structure with a prominent south facing, passive solar conservatory buffer space running up through two and a half storeys. The compact plan 7.5 x 9m with a vertical emphasis on a tight site forms a minimal surface exposed envelop to accommodate a four bedroom home with additional study, counselling room, studio and shared family work space for a family of four (some times a family of six when the two older children return home.) The house bears some resemblance in form and function to the large family homes found in Shaker or Amish Communities acting as a focal point for local gatherings, a refuge for an extended family and a shared work place.

 
A 12 sided community building
 

Following the Eco Villages recommended high standards for sustainable building the house is made from locally harvested un-treated soft wood, clad with Scottish Douglas fir and insulated with Warmcell cellulose within the hydroscopic vapour permeable building fabric. Low E double glazing forms the conservatory envelope and that in turn opens up to the main living spaces via large 3.6m wide bio fold doors allowing valuable warm sun light to penetrate into the heart of the house.

 
Eco housing in a woodland setting
 

The open plan living space on the first floor houses an efficient Scan wood burning stove providing a strong social focus within the large space and acts a as winter counter poise to the magnificent views from the conservatory and first floor balconies across to the mountains and tidal Findhorn Bay estuary. Auro non-toxic paints and stains through out the house and waxed timber floors to the living room have contributed to the light spacious and healthy feel of the interior.

 
All household black and grey sewage is treated in the village biological treatment plant and the Eco Village community wind farm turbine supplies the house’s renewable electricity.
 

Besides the house's ecological credentials the greatest area of learning has been in the positive development of supportive relationships between the architect, development director, client and builders throughout the procurement and building process.

 
Grass roofed guest accommodation at the eco village
 
Bedroom inside a Bag End eco house
 
         
 
 
 
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