architecture design sustainability

Building of the week: YHA National Forest

Here’s somewhere I stayed a couple of months back with the good folks from the Breathe network – Britain’s only purpose-built eco-hostel. It’s in the National Forest, part of an ambitious plan to re-forest a 200-mile strip of English countryside. Being in a ‘forest in the making’ means the hostel is currently surrounded by saplings and looks a little isolated, but once those trees have grown it’ll be beautiful.

What makes it an eco-hostel? It has overhanging roofs that shade the building in the summer and keep it cool without blocking natural light. The windows are all shuttered to keep heat in during the winter and out in out in summer. It’s also well packed with insulation.

On the roof you can see a solar hot water system, and the heating runs off a biomass boiler which is fed with wood pellets from the National Forest itself. The roof collects rainwater and stores it in an underground tank beneath the building, and that is used to flush the toilets.

To top it off, the canteen tries to source as much of the food that it serves locally.

To me, this is just the kind of future-facing building I want to see more of. It’s not wacky or waving its green credentials in your face. You could stay there and not notice any of it. It’s just a well thought-out building, a great hostel, and one that will have a considerably lower impact on its environment. I’ll have to come back in 20 years and see it with the trees full grown.


  1. Thanks, Wow & Splendid! You could return in even less time. My husband & I planted a woodland belt of over 1,000 x 2ft mixed native trees, plus other appropriate shrubs in early 2005, all purely for the benefit of wildlife and they felt like a wood only 5 years later! Helps to a purify the whole world!

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