With warnings about the catastrophic impact of climate change dominating headlines, pressure is mounting to cut global carbon emissions before it’s too late.
As world leaders scramble to find solutions, a beacon of inspiration for climate-friendly living is already taking place in the market town of Bridport in Dorset. This flagship vision of sustainable, community-based living, conceived in 2008 and now under construction, sets a benchmark for energy efficiency and low-carbon housing.
Every aspect of the development – from a carbon-free, solar-powered microgrid, to integral use of air-source heat pumps, supremely insulated homes, car-free streets and on-site food-growing spaces – has been designed to eliminate the need for fossil fuels and harness the power of the latest eco-friendly technology.
Bridport Cohousing is the UK's largest cohousing project to date, comprising 53 sustainable, affordable eco-homes to buy and rent. The development, called Hazelmead, will offer half of the homes for social rent through BCHA, with the remaining properties available for shared ownership, or through the Government's Help to Buy scheme. Here, we throw the spotlight on innovative technology that’s transforming Hazelmead’s vision into reality.
Pioneering a green energy revolution
A partnership comprising Bridport Cohousing, BCHA, Clean Energy Prospector and Bristol Energy Cooperative has resulted in the construction of a microgrid system for Hazelmead that champions the provision of clean, green, locally generated energy for residents.
Giant photovoltaic (solar) panels cover much of the roof spaces, with sustainable power generated by every home stored on-site in a high-capacity shared battery and redistributed for all customers. The immense capacity of this giant battery will help to meet residents’ power needs even when the sun isn’t shining, and the system allows the purchase of top-up wind power from other suppliers, if needed. It will power electric heating at homes across Hazelmead, with hot water supplied by air-source heat pumps. The super-insulated homes also retain warmth from the sun, reducing the need for active heating.
Bridport Cohousing has even set an ambitious target of reducing the community’s carbon footprint by 40% over the first five years of living at Hazelmead.
Class-leading levels of insulation
The cost of keeping homes warm during winter – and the environmental impact of doing so – is high on the political agenda as the climate and energy crisis deepens.
Properties at Hazelmead have been designed to meet standards set by the Association for Environment Conscious Building (AECB), while timber-framed homes are insulated to near PassivHaus levels of insulation and clad with brick and sustainably sourced timber.
Because these homes have been designed as almost airtight environments for maximum efficiency, they are equipped with Mechanical Ventilation with Heat Recovery (MVHR) systems which bring fresh air into homes while recovering waste heat from stale air which is pumped out. Cohousing homes are slightly smaller than average, to avoid the energy costs of heating spare rooms. Residents will not need spare bedrooms, because visitors will be able to hire guest bedrooms on site.
Horticultural havens champion biodiversity
With Hazelmead set in an Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty and built on former farmland, creating a biodiverse habitat for birds, reptiles and mammals is at the heart of the scheme.
Common areas will be planted with native trees, while sparrow and swift boxes are being attached to terraced houses. Larger trees have bat boxes added, and a wildflower meadow will become a haven for pollinators. A commitment to organic gardening and the principles of permaculture (meeting human needs while enhancing biodiversity and reducing our impact on the planet) will ensure that land is cultivated in tune with nature.
Providing residents with access to land for cultivating food is integral to Hazelmead’s vision of food security. Bridport Cohousing’s Lin Scrannage says: “All houses have community growing beds at the rear and we will use these areas to grow food for shared meals in the Common House. We also have two full-size allotment plots off-site, where residents can garden together. We are planning to bulk-buy fresh organic vegetables and food staples from local suppliers, which will cut food bills for residents and reduce food miles.”
Trees and shrubs at Hazelmead will be productive, edible varieties that benefit residents and wildlife, including 12 cherries, a mulberry, four walnuts and nine Chilean guavas. An orchard will be planted, including Adam's Pearmain and Egremont Russet apples.
Driving change in eco-friendly travel
Car-free streets at Hazelmead will provide safe spaces for children to play. Parking provision is in dedicated parking areas (with one space per household) and will include charging points for electric vehicles, along with secure, dry storage for bicycles.
Bridport Cohousing is in talks with Co Cars in Exeter to set up an e-car club, while a focus on cycling and e-bikes will ensure that opportunities to maximise the use of pedal power are realised, driving a new culture of sustainable, climate-friendly travel.
For more information, please contact BCHA Communications Manager Victoria Kate via email at Victoriakate@bcha.org.uk.