The Village, Cloghjordan -So Far 2007
Cloghjordan eco village-Design Vision and Realisation to Date
Brian O Brien
The ecoVillage, Cloghjordan
So Far- 2007
The Village is Ireland’s first large scale, purpose planned, ecological settlement and is to be located in North Tipperary. It will contain 130 homes including live-work units, community buildings, ecological infrastructure and extensive landscape and be integrated to the existing village streetscape, and social and economic life.
Sustainable Projects Ireland Ltd SPIL was launched in 1999 by Gavin Harte & Gregg Allen. A founding board of key actors in environmentalism in Ireland at the time shepherded the project through the start up phase after which new members took over.
The plan envisaged the purchase of 100 acres of unzoned land (at agricultural prices) and developing it so that it would provide a masterplanned framework for individual houses to be developed on sustainably serviced plots. These ‘plots’ would have outline planning permission and be provided with natural or renewable infra-structure, as well as some community buildings. Since the project would be member owned, savings due to not extracting a profit are ploughed back into the project increasing affordability. All benefits are shared among members)
Members from that first year were attracted by a mixture of desires; ranging from, getting affordable housing to ‘starting from scratch’, downshifting, creating a ‘rural idyl’- or probably a mixture of each. Founding ideals included sharing of responsibilities to forward the company’s goals, with renumeration for such efforts being based on a ‘sweat equity’ or LETS system. Members Fairs were held and a database built –up. By The end of 2003 there were 29 members.
Design participation by members has also been a core value of the project. Extensive consultation workshops were held over a period facilitated by a psychologist, architects, and ecologists to develop the brief, decide priorities, gauge expectations etc.
Community outreach as designs on the Cloughjordan site developed included public meetings, engaging the local schools in making a large scale model of the whole town, information meetings with local representatives etc. A newsletter outlining the projects progress was issued quarterly.
Member involvement in goal setting as well as in the detail of financial, design and technical matters has always been key and various new tools and procedures have been developed. These have evolved a series of innovative decision making processes which have allowed an ever larger membership debate, contribute to, and implement the decisions that make the project so unusual.
The Masterplan / Design:
The design vision of the Village drew some lessons from a number of international precedents including Ecolonia in the Netherlands, designed by Lucien Kroll, and Lebensgarten in Germany both eco-settlements and intentional communities of some repute. A US model; Village Homes in Davis California was also an influence on the goals of the project, especially by way of traffic separation. The Camphill Communities clustered around Kilkenny and Carlow represent the closest existing model currently operating in Ireland.
The main idea was always to create a ‘fully featured’ community whereby all necessary residential, livelihood, social and other facilities would be available in a master-planned, coherent and ecological way from the outset. The idea of only developing (with construction) a third of the land was always central to this.
Many locations and sites were considered and Cloughjordan was finally selected by members April 2002.
The Cloughjordan site comprised 67 acres of farmland, formerly part of the estate of Cloughjordan House adjacent. Site constraints, including a large buried sewer and teh presence of the protected structure in the adjacent property determined, some aspects of the site specific masterplan design. The the also site had a number of unusual opportunities whih were also nitegrated into the masterplan; the connection to the main street through the already empty/derelict Lime Tree pub adjoining the site, the watercourse across the site, some beautiful mature trees as well as an imposing historic stone wall bounding the neighbouring arboreteum of Cloghjordan House, and the presence of some very well built farm roads. Orientation and access as well as prevailing winds also influenced the design heavily.
New Urban Form
The design of the built form/townscape emanated from these features and a design aim to optimise between the opposing desires of continuing the streetscape northward into the site and the conflicting desire to array houses (and streets east west) to capture sunlight. This north-south axis, became a sort of ‘social corridor’ connecting the old main street, at the towns ‘green’ to a new ‘market’ square within the new development, where two community buildings would be, and onward, beside the watercourse, to another community ‘crescent’.
Water and SUDS
The watercourse was re-ordered to increase its contact area and to unite the two public spaces. It’s profile and treatment would be modified to incorporate reed beds, swales etc and become the underlying structure for a SUDs surface water management and flood mitigation (resilience) approach. Most surface water flows are direct via filter drains and swales to the watercourse but with many detention and infiltration opportunities along each one.
Planning has been received for what will be the Countries largest natural wastewater treatment system using horizontal and vertical reed beds and infiltration on site.
A narrow spine road that threads through the scheme conveys vehicles but is kept narrow enough to discourage pedestrians- encouraging them instead to use the social spine and the network of greenways. These greenways set up a secondary layer of pedestrian movement connecting smaller nodes, playgrounds, recycling points, and community gardens and the main spine. This approach enlarges on the UK’s Homezones approach, itself derived from Dutch Woonerf, and should lead to an experience diametrically opposite to that of the typical housing estate. In terms of parking, all plots have one dedicated car park space either on, adjacent to, or near them. There are two areas of visitor parking located at both entrances to the community and other visitor spaces distributed at regular spacings throughout the layout. There is a total of 31 visitor car park spaces.
In all there are 133 residential units in 70 buildings, 3 community buildings (including an enterprise/services building). Buildings range from 1 and a half to 3 storeys in height. In term of use they are designated, as residential (live), home/workplace (live –work), and non residential (community, enterprise, service/utility) etc. Ownership ranges from SPIL to individuals to groups of members to potentially some not for profit organisations. Development methods were considered also.
A landscape design using the discipline of Permaculture was developed which suggested landscape treatment for different conditions and areas based on native productive and edible plant species. Greenway paths connect all community facilities such as playgrounds, allotments recycling centres etc
Quality and Consistency
The quality of the energy, ecology and architectural outcome is controlled by three binding documents that each member’s building must adhere to; the eco charter, plot development rules’ (planning type controls on each houses size, positions etc) , design guidelines (that show the best way to avoid design incoherence and ugliness).
Planning permissions (Outline for buildings and Full for infrastructure and roads) were granted with conditions in Summer 2005. The post-planning period has involved a full archaeology dig, numerous geo-technical, and hydro-geological tests, well-monitoring as well obviously as the development of detail design drawings and specifications for the infrastructure.
Following completion of infrastructure members began building their own eco houses.
Post Script Solearth were re-engaged in 2009 at the suggestion of the planning authority to try to increase coherence in the multiple and diverse designs that were the subject of ongoing planning applications by new members.
More Technical Aspects
Buro Happold the consulting engineers began the design of engineering/ infrastructure in Autumn 2003. The proposed system is based on mixed water collection and treatment in a series of vertical and horizontal reedbeds on a large scale.
Other infrastructural aspects are also innovationary: Roads are engineered as being of 2 widths, both unusually small; the narrower, spur roads being 3.5m wide for local access (cul de sacs) and the wider spine or through road being 4.5m wide. A two-way system with soft shoulders for passing, combined with low speed limits was devised. This has since been re-proposed as a one-way system. In terms of public lighting, the scheme wanted to adopt a low lighting approach combined with dark sky design. This was challenging. Surface water handling adopts the principles of sustainable drainage systems, combining impervious paving draining to filter drains for conveying and infiltrating, porous paving to parking areas flowing to local reedbeds and soakaways for (later) houses.
Work is now complete on the pre-commencement planning conditions, and Clancy Construction have been selected and appointed as the main contractor for installation of the infrastructure (roads, greenways, streambeds/water features/wastewater treatment reedbeds, landscaping, planting). That work will commence early next month (March 2007) and last til the end of the year. During that time members will be busy designing their homes and making applications for planning permission (based on the outline permissions they receive with the plot purchase). Designs for the community buildings will be advanced then also. Construction of homes and community buildings will start early 2008 and the first residents should move in around the end of next year.
A decision is expected on an application made in partnership with the existing communities, to the EU’s Concerto programme around the middle of the year, allowing creation of a district heat grid (using renewable fuels) out into the existing village.-
Post Script (2012)
The District heating plant has been built and all sites and current houses enjoy piped renewable district heating fueled by a large wood chip boiler on site. This will be supplement by the newly installed 500sq metre group solar thermal system which awaits commissioning.
A very successful community supported agriculture initiative manages farming and horticulture on site for the benefit of members.
Solearth Architecture; Architects and Masterplanners
Buro Happold; Consulting engineers
Gardiner and Theobold Cost; Control and quantity Surveying
Bernard Seymour Landscape Architects; Landscape Architects
EcoFlo Ark Nurseries: Wastewater Consultants