As a practice we have always had an interest in sustainability and exploring new ways of achieving low energy construction. We have recently completed several buildings that are net-zero for carbon in operation and have carried out studies to minimise the embodied carbon in construction. We hoped that the opportunity to visit the Hockerton Housing Project (HHP) would demonstrate a different approach to saving energy through construction and provide thought-provoking ideas about co-housing.

Hockerton Housing Project is a small development of earth-sheltered houses, set on several acres of productive land. The project operates as Co-housing, a form of housing that is made of adjacent private properties who then share facilities to make efficient use of resources. The earth-sheltered sustainable homes are built with high thermal mass and high levels of insulation to eliminate the need for whole-house heating systems. Residents of the five houses generate their own clean energy to meet their remaining energy needs. They also grow most of their own food, harvest and treat their water and recycle waste materials.

Alan first visited HHP around 23 years ago, when the houses were new and the development of the gardens and farm had only just begun. He was interested to see how the building and site had matured over time and if the original aims had been achieved.

The team attended a day-long seminar, learning about the ideas behind the development and how lessons learned can be applied to other projects. Although it is difficult to see many of the Hockerton principles being successfully rolled out on a mass scale, the staff appreciated the project as a thought provoking model for living and example in the drive towards net zero.

We could see how aspects of the design and detailing of the houses could be developed, given 25 years of technological research and development since their construction. The level of social cooperation that has been achieved at the project and how family life is balanced by communal activities was also considered an interesting aspect of life at Hockerton. 

For more information on the Hockerton Housing Project visit their website.