Although much of the focus is on buildings, the important thing is to create homes for people, that give them the opportunity to live the best life it’s possible to achieve, while considering their place in, and fair share of, the environment, and what is practical and affordable.
Most people who aspire to live in “eco” housing come from a minority who have a higher than average interest in “green” issues, and like the idea of an alternative to mainstream life. However, if imaginative housing solutions such as Eco-Hamlets are created only for them, the majority of people will still live a lifestyle that will become increasingly unsustainable, and that will have a negative impact on the people who have adapted in response to the challenges we face. So while early Eco-Hamlets are likely to appeal to the “green” minority, an objective is to create solutions that can be rolled out on a large scale as more people realise their lives need to change.
Maybe part of the design criteria for an Eco-Hamlet could be to create homes where a visitor living a high energy consumption, high stress life, can walk through the door, see the happy relaxed occupants and say “Wow! I could live like this”, and can then be referred to all the resources to help them achieve it!
So an Eco-Hamlet could be for anyone. At first it will be the people who are looking for a different life, but later it will also be for those who realise their current lifestyle has to change.
Social sustainability, as well as ecological, is an essential part of an Eco-Hamlet. The concept was initially devised for people who could afford to own a conventional house but were looking for something different, although it soon became apparent that it’s an idea that could suit a wide variety of people, wants and needs, and be a solution to many of the social issues that the UK faces. Some examples are:
- Many people living alone, particularly those who are older or disabled, suffer loneliness and/or isolation, which is proven to be bad for both physical and mental health. Living in an Eco-Hamlet could enable them to retain their independence while receiving more social and practical support.
- Those with caring responsibilities, whether for children or adults, can also benefit enormously from living in situations where support is on hand.
- Eco-Hamlets could enable those without enough capital to buy a conventional home, to buy, build or rent housing under better conditions than exist in private sector renting.
- Eco-Hamlets will attract and develop skills and ideas that will benefit the wider community.
- Many people lament the loss of traditional community values. It would be a good thing to modernise those ideals, promote them and demonstrate that they are possible through a different approach to living, working and socialising.
- For people who have capital, but who are wary of getting themselves into huge amounts of debt for an asset that may depreciate and leave them stuck in negative equity, an Eco-Hamlet may offer a safer option.
- An Eco-Hamlet could be a place where there are always people around to look after each other’s pets when anyone is away from home.
- Many young people have come out of university unable to obtain a good job and afford decent housing. Eco-Hamlets could offer them opportunities not available elsewhere.