architecture lifestyle

Ireland’s greenest community – Cloughjordan Ecovillage

A couple of months ago I wrote about The Wintles, an unusual housing project from the Living Villages Trust. There, a series of homes were built and sold, planning from the outset to create a brand new village and community around a set of shared public spaces and resources.

A reader in Ireland got in touch to tell me about a similar project, the Cloughjordan Ecovillage. This too has been designed to foster community in a new village, but with a crucial difference. Here, you buy a plot of land and build your own home, according to an agreed set of standards. It makes Cloughjordan a showcase for natural building techniques, from traditional cob houses to straw bale walls, or timber frame kit houses. All of them tap into a district heating system that burns wood waste from a nearby sawmill and provides low-carbon heating and hot water.

There are 55 homes so far, and a hostel. There are still 28 empty plots available if, on the offchance, you fancy moving to a village in Ireland and building an ecohome.

Many residents have built what they needed to run a business and work from home, including workshops and a bakery. Others work at a green business centre on the site, while a train link to Dublin and Limerick keeps the city accessible. The village also hosts Ireland’s leading community supported agriculture initiative, where paid farmers supply organic produce to a membership of local households.

The land that the village is on, which was bought in 1999, is divided into thirds. One is given over to housing, with a goal of eventually building 130 houses. A third is reserved for the farm, orchards, allotments, and ‘edible landscapes’ of various kinds. The final third is kept as woodland, a place for residents to enjoy and to encourage local biodiversity.

As a fairly ambitious project, the village has been studied in a variety of ways and it has been designated the greenest village in Ireland. A study found that residents had the lowest ecological footprints of any settlement in the country – though it came in at 2 global hectares, and the sustainable ‘one planet share’ is 1.7. Even a radical project like Cloughjordan doesn’t yet meet the full definition of equitable sustainability.

Building your own ecohome isn’t for everyone, and I can imagine there are pros and cons to a community with a very high ratio of idealists and pioneers! With everyone doing their own thing, there won’t be the aesthetic coherence of a development like The Wintles. But it’s a unique experiment and one to learn from. That’s a big part of their philosophy, running tours and residential courses. Since the pandemic makes that impossible, they’ve created a 360 tour instead, which you can see below.

For more, see the Cloughjordan ecovillage website, more photos here, or this history of the project.

4 comments

  1. Looks like a great project with a lot to learn from, and seems like a brilliantly informative presentation via 3D video!
    It reminds me of Ecological Land Cooperative: https://ecologicalland.coop/about
    I’d love to see more schemes of this kind; surely could be a good way to address land use, housing, inequality and social division? Though I’m aware there’d be huge challenges in scaling up, overcoming issues of close communities etc, I still think this should be studied much more seriously – some significant investigation and development resources would surely be warranted?

  2. Very ideal indeed. Unfortunately, not all property developers think the same.

    I’m also thinking–how many ecovillages are actually possible to build, to properly house everyone in Britain–considering that a large part of the country is owned by only a few families/organisations?

    1. Well, not many, and Britain has a pretty high population density. It can be a challenge finding land to build your own house, let alone a village. I don’t think this could ever be a model for how to house the whole of Britain, but it is a good place for testing alternative ways of living.

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