Ecovillages are communities, consciously designed through participatory processes, with the goal of becoming more socially, economically, culturally and ecologically sustainable.
The Global Ecovillage Network (GEN) was set up in 1995 as an umbrella organisation working to support the experimental creation and preservation of low impact lifestyles across the globe. GEN-Europe, numbering 214 members, is the association that focuses on Ecovillages located in Europe, Africa and the Middle East. It focuses on sharing the ideas, transferring technologies and developing cultural and educational exchanges.
In addition, it presents potential pathways and possibilities for transition by providing networking services in the form of information, encouragement, tools, examples demonstrating sustainability principles and practices, serves as a catalyst for Ecovillages and Ecovillage-related projects, e.g. Living and Learning Centres, which offer various educational programmes, courses and workshops, or the Living Routes Program addressing to students.
Villages are small-scale solutions and large-scale activities for urban centres are not sufficiently integrated. This is a challenge. Another challenge is the diversity of various regional initiatives. Even within the same countries, careful considerations are required, before this source of knowledge can be used. GEN offers recognition to the various existent Ecovillages, as well as the opportunity to gather and exchange information, e.g. with respect to the sustainability criteria used to award the label “Eco-Village”.
I think eco-villages have been a very good learning platform for sustainable solutions in construction and housing. Many solutions have been developed and tried out in eco-villages and many eco-villages also are the basis for a sufficient lifestyle of their inhabitants.
However, I am not sure how important eco-villages are in terms of transition to sustinability. As eco-villages have often been quite autonomous and non-commercial, I have the feeling that they are still somehow in a niche. They still are not reckognized and known adequately. Maybe we should think about how to establish the missing links between existing solutions in eco-villages and mainstreaming sustainbale lifestyles. Eco-villages are often based on a very holistic thinking of their founders and inhabitants. Maybe too holistic for direct mainstreaming? But why not mainstreaming and commercializing at least the specific solutions that have been developed in eco-villages?
I do agree with you Micheal, when you say that eco-villages tend to remain niche-experiment which are hardly mainstreamed. Nevertheless, I also think that these experiments can provide ideas that can be adopted on a bigger scale. In fact, even if the zero-impact village tends to remain an isolated case, the single architectural and engineering solutions (e.g. heating, electricity, isolation, materials which are used, organization of space) can be adapted to many other contexts. So, yes, just to answer your question, I think eco-village are too holistic, but they can work as "source of inspiration" or as laboratory to experiment new sustainable construction tecniques.
Here I found the website of the new German project, which is called Plus-Energie Haus. The basic idea is that of building houses which produce more energy than what they consume. http://www.plusenergiehaus.de/index.php?p=home&pid=8&L=1&am...
Dear Giorgia, dear all,
I think you are totally right in terms of inspiration and experiment.
PlusEnergieHaus is a very interesting project that is just started to be mainstreamed but also has risen from the niche experiment of one architect. When I was in Freiburg looking at the PlusEnergyHouses, the guide said that the demand for these houses was tremendous and it was a pity that the city had not been sufficiently courageous to originally plan the PlusEnergyHouse area much bigger than it is now.
As far as I have understood, Rolf Disch, the architect behind the concept, has started to market PlusEnergyHouse areas throughout Germany. Hope he will be lucky in a quick implementation and mainstreaming!
yesterday we had the chance to meet Sue Riddlestone from BioRegional, who have implemented an eco-village concept quite successfully. Their BedZed-Initiative (see below for more info) is also often visited as a promising example, as it demonstrates how BioRegional's concept of One Planet Living could become reality.
What inspired me when talking to Sue is that this demonstration project is now influencing other projects, its lessons learned are now being developed and refined in follow-on projects. Among others, a spin-off sustainable communities developmentcompany of Bioregional is developing new models for facilities management and community management as part of its One Brighton sustainable community, in order to help mainstream the concept.
"Beddington Zero Energy Development is the UK’s largest mixed use sustainable community. It was designed to create a thriving community in which ordinary people could enjoy a high quality of life, while living within their fair share of the Earth’s resources. BedZED was initiated by BioRegional and ZEDfactory, and developed by Peabody housing association. It was completed and occupied in 2002. The community comprises 50% housing for sale, 25% shared ownership and 25% social housing for rent." see http://www.bioregional.com/what-we-do/our-work/bedzed/
Love this! Networks like the Global Ecovillage Network are invaluable sources of information and learnings on how to enable and scale more sustainable living infrastructure - and influence sustainable lifestyle behaviour.
Factual report, written in answer to the question ‘what makes an eco-town?’.
Across the world, there have already been a number of trailblazing initiatives, including exemplary European sustainable communities such as Vauban in Freiburg and Hammarby Sjöstad. We can also learn from smaller eco-communities in the UK like BedZED and Great Bow Yard. These projects are great examples, but eco-towns should be the next step forward, building on what has been learnt. The need for settlements which show what our towns and our daily lives will be like if we live sustainably has never been more urgent. Eco-towns must therefore demonstrate real and measurable sustainable living. They should encourage and allow people to live within ecological limits whilst enjoying a high quality of life in an attractive environment.
Eco-towns should be places where it is easy for residents to adopt sustainable lifestyles. This means that the choices offered across all aspects of living and working need to be sustainable ones. Developers need to put in place the foundations to enable this. These will include energy efficient buildings, renewable energy, resource efficient infrastructure and proximity to employment and services. It should also include access to sustainable lifestyle options, services and information to make it the everyday ‘default’ for residents to choose a more sustainable way of living in the eco-town.
Whilst the focus of this report is on environmental sustainability, eco-towns must also address social and economic factors if they are to be successful. Sustainability is about more than resource efficiency: sustainable communities will be well designed and will foster social and economic sustainability. Often the issues are interwoven. For example, sustainable transport options such as cycling and walking reduce environmental impact but also bring benefits for personal health and well-being; walkable communities encourage social connection; car clubs are a new service industry that create sustainable jobs and reduce transport impacts. It is vital that the eco-towns work well as places. This means in social and economic terms as well as environmental.