The homes are at the cutting edge of sustainable design meeting Passivhaus standard, AECB Gold Standard and Code for Sustainable Homes Level Six. Their construction added only a 10% premium on the cost of traditionally built homes, but were sold at the market value due to savings in Stamp Duty & sharing recourses.
The £8.2m development was led by the residents, working collaboratively with architect Eco Arc through a participative design process. It was constructed by a local traditional builder, guided by specialists. This developed new skills in the local workforce and demonstrated that eco-building could be replicated on a wide scale.
The development includes industrial buildings, refurbished for energy efficiency, including Halton Mill, a low carbon workspace, which now has an A rating energy performance certificate. It has become a hub of small businesses, social enterprises, freelancers, artists and crafts people, creating employment and a collaborative working environment for local people and cohousing residents.
Heating and hot water use is about 15% that of average homes, and comes from a district heating system powered by a single biomass boiler, run on local woodchip. Energy efficient appliances and lighting reduce electricity use to about 30% of average. Electricity is generated from two community energy schemes: a 89 kWp array of solar PV panels and a 160 kW hydro electric scheme owned by Halton Lune Hydro, a joint initiative between the local community centre, Lancaster Cohousing and LESS, a sustainability cooperative.
The development was built with only 17 private car spaces: there is a car club, including two electric cars, a shared mobility scooter and bike repair workshop.
The project is fulfilling its ambition to be an exemplar of sustainable development and living in various ways. It supports developing cohousing projects – there are now 75 in the UK – providing advice, documentation and a chance to experience community living. It runs monthly tours (often with the Hydro and Halton Mill) and many more on request – for students, professionals, individuals, policy makers. It has collaborated with three university research projects on sustainable building/living. Its residents write, a blog and give presentations promoting the challenges and joys of sustainable living.