Last week we took the opportunity to develop our knowledge of sustainable and self build projects through a couple of visits to the Hockerton Housing Project in Nottinghamshire and meeting Hemp-Lime Construct in Cromford.

The original Hockerton homes

Hockerton Housing Project is a self sufficient co-housing group based in the Nottinghamshire countryside. Over a decade ago they began work on a terrace of earth sheltered eco-homes that use super insulation and thermal mass in lieu of any active heating system. Since then the project has developed to add an office and workshop and now some further homes are in construction on the edges of their site. Hockerton works on the basis of having a simple and clear aim and structure. Everyone on site has the same goal of low impact sustainable living and all work together to achieve this objective. The group make best use of the skills of all their members, whether construction, engineering or management abilities, recognising the valuable contribution each member makes to the group both financially and socially.

Hockerton new build houses
The new Hockerton homes under construction

Hockerton’s tips for successful self-build communities are – have a simple clear structure, understand the vital role of project management and keep construction simple. All the materials for their builds are sourced from local builders’ merchants and used for their strengths. Brick and concrete form a high thermal mass envelope that absorbs heat and super insulation ensures heat generated by the occupants and absorbed into the fabric is retained. PV’s provide power for electricity and to heat water held in super insulated storage tanks. Rain water harvesting and reed beds provide sustainable water supplies and sewerage treatment, and a lovely pond to enjoy in the sunshine. At the minute you could also be lucky enough to become their newest member with one of the original homes currently for sale!

Later in the week we went to meet Alex Sparrow from Hemp-Lime Construct, specialist contractors for hemp construction. Alex gave us a masterclass in the various uses and benefits of hemp, and a sneak preview of their new book coming out later in the year. We were really impressed with their ethos and approach to projects and are really looking forward to exploring how hemp could be used in some of our projects as a sustainable and low cost alternative to standard constructions.

As we were in Cromford, we also took the opportunity for a browse around Scarthin Books, listed by some as one of the most beautiful bookshops in the world. An incredible maze of second hand and new books squeezed into every corner of the shop. We could have spent all day in the art and architecture room, and will be back with some more pocketmoney soon!

scarthin books