There is a resurgence of community self build projects at the moment (also known as community custom build), most of which have a strong green flavour. These range from established communities such as the Findhorn FoundationThe Findhorn Foundation is a large community near Inverness. There is a strong emphasis on sustainable building. with large development plans in the offing through cohousing developments such as Lancaster Cohousing Group, LILAC cohousing in Leeds to self build groups such Ashley Vale in Bristol and Hebden Bridge and Todmorden Community Self Build Housing (who are currently in the pre-development stage) see more on this group
They are a Community Interest Company covering the Upper Calder Valley looking for members and volunteers, particularly with skills in;
Funding / Bid writing
Report and Blog writing
see their web site
A whole raft of other schemes are at the planning stage. see –
- the Cohousing Network web site
- Diggers and Dreamers current projects
- Rural Urban Synthesis Society a Community Land Trust scheme of 30 new, high quality, sustainable homes in Lewisham
- Building and Social Housing Foundation with their mission statement: BSHF is an independent not-for-profit organisation working around the world. We encourage better housing for people with few housing choices by identifying and promoting great practice in housing, bringing people together to transfer solutions and ideas, and facilitating programmes leading to positive change.
Community self build can have a number of strong ecological advantages over the traditional norms for house building. These range from the obvious energy saving reasons through to more esoteric aspects. They can include –
- sharing communal facilities such as
- shared heating systems and CHP Combined heat and power - where the heat which is produced when electricity is generated is used within a heating system rather than wasted. This can happen at different levels - within a single house, a housing development, a town etc. .
- shared energy harvesting. (although the government have recently withdrawn pre accreditation for such schemes. see the ESTEnergy Savings Trust article on this}
- shared machinery / equipment
- laundry facilities
- shared visitors’ bedrooms
- workshops / specialised tools
- office space
- sports / recreational facilities
- reducing travel / transport
- working from home
- home education
- shared transport
- producing food locally
- shared recycling
- a shared knowledge base which makes use of local opportunities.
It can also offer a radically different type of ownership model
- not everyone is totally enamoured of the British obsession with owning their own home. Many people would prefer to have control of their own house but not necessarily be burdened with a 20 year mortgage. After all, most countries in Europe are not so dependent on the ownership model.
- many people see the home ownership / nuclear family model as being a bit stuck in the 20th C. and would like a bit more fluidity in their lives.
- some people would like to make a political break from the capitalist model of housing finance we have now and be part of a more collective enterprise
- the deepening entrenchment of the class system in the UK is leading to a division of the way people relate to each other around neighbourhoods and housing
- many younger people are more mobile and are less keen to be totally sucked in to the long term ownership model
- older people would often like to be closer to their families and community
- there are many particular interest groups where people want to live close to each other
A series of videos are available at Living in the Future: Ecovillage Pioneers Online Video Series
see also Global Ecovillage Network
There are several initiatives now in place which may favour community self build:
- Community Right to Build. New measures to help with planning permissionthe legal basis for being allowed to do some form of development such as building a house. (not to be confused with Building RegulationsThese are the mass of regulations that cover safety, health, welfare, convenience, energy efficiency etc. in the way buildings are constructed. Not to be confused with Planning consent (which is more to do with whether you can put up the building in the first place). See more on the regulations which are all about whether the building is properly constructed). see more on Planning the legal basis for being allowed to do some form of development such as building a house. (not to be confused with Building Regulations which is all about whether the building is properly constructed). see more on Planning “The new powers give communities the freedom to build new homes, shops, businesses or facilities where they want them, without going through the normal planning application process.” see more.
- Community Land Trusts “Currently, community groups in England (outside London) can apply for funding to help them to formally establish themselves, prepare their development proposals and submit a Community Right to Build Order under the Localism Act 2011. see more
There is also a strong government stimulus in the form of the new housing strategy, Laying the Foundations. Local authorities are now supposed to actively assess the likely needs of local self build groups, identify potential building plots which are under their control and help make them available.