This blog is primarily about a research project I am doing on affordable eco-homes. The aim is to understand how we can create more opportunities for people on low incomes to self-build their own eco-homes in rural areas.
‘Affordable eco-homes’ is a one year research project on low cost eco-housing. The aim of the project is to improve British approaches and practices to affordable eco-building. It hopes to understand how we can create more opportunities for people to self-build their own eco-homes in rural areas. The project has three objectives:
- to identify successful small-scale, community-led, self-built eco-developments targeted at low-income potential residents;
- to understand how such developments have overcome problems of planning, local resistance, collective organisation, finance, and using non-conventional materials; and
- to identify common successful strategies in creating affordable eco-homes which could be adopted in Britain.
It is run by Jenny Pickerill who is a Senior Lecturer in Human Geography at the University of Leicester (www.le.ac.uk/gg/staff/academic_pickerill.html). It is funded by a Winston Churchill Trust travelling fellowship (www.wcmt.org.uk) to spend the summer of 2010 looking at examples in Britain, Thailand, Spain, Argentina and the USA.
Changing how our houses are constructed, the energy they require and use, and their location is one of the most productive changes we can make to reduce our environmental impact. However, in Britain low-impact environmental living tends to be the preserve of the wealthy who can afford single-dwelling eco-homes, and few opportunities are available in rural areas for low-income residents.
On a personal level I believe that academia should contribute to progressive social change and that is why a project such as this is important. As part of this change I live in a self-designed eco-house and have spent many years working with eco-village groups in Britain such as Lammas (www.lammas.org.uk), who recently secured planning permission for nine low-impact dwellings in rural Wales. I have also co-edited a book on the imaginative eco-homes of a number of groups in Britain (http://lowimpactdevelopment.wordpress.com/order-copy).
I intend to achieve my aim by exploring successful projects which are small-scale, community-led, rural, self-built and targeted at low-income potential residents. I am keen to understand how such successful projects have navigated the problems that we have been experiencing in Britain – reticent planners, local resident objections, the logistics of collectively organising finance and legal structures, the problems of defining how to live together as a community while ensuring enough individual freedom, and the risks of using non-conventional materials. I intend to visit a variety of projects. In each case I hope to undertake interviews with co-ordinators and participants, take photographs and participate in life at each project.
What will the project produce?
- A project website (eventually multi-lingual) with summaries of eco-build projects and key findings. Also facility for interaction to enable those involved to share their experiences of low cost eco-building.
- A short book (written in an accessible style) and some academic articles.
- Material to be used for talks around Britain to groups interested in setting up self-build low-impact projects.