55 homes already, still spaces for more
As an award-winning sustainable neighbourhood in a rural town, we are a destination for learning-by-doing and action research into sustainability, resilience, community living and rural regeneration, as well as, of course, a lovely place to live. With 55 houses for 130 residents and over 15 businesses, co-operatives and learning providers, we represent a dynamic ecosystem of innovation. We are still moving towards our 130-house target and welcome interest from prospective new members.
Through renewable energy heating, well-insulated houses, a community farm, green enterprise centre with co-working and digital fabrication laboratory, community woodlands, and university research relationships, the project serves as a powerful model for transitioning to a low-carbon society and building community resilience.
Sustainable Projects Ireland Ltd. (SPIL) is a not-for-profit members' cooperative and a registered educational charity, which was set up in 1999, as a company limited by guarantee. Its primary objective is to provide a model for future development for the island of Ireland. It has a dual focus on sustainability and community development. All the current residential accommodation is private and we are now also exploring opportunities for cohousing, as well as remaining open to those interested in private ownership. "The Village" includes freehold sites with all services (including district heating and high-quality broadband) for detached, semi-detached and terraced houses. Purchasers must become members and must commit to construction of their new homes to agreed standards, some of them on a self-build basis.
The ecovillage has extended the existing village of Cloughjordan, which previously had an adult population of 430 and now reaches to about 700. Some leading local community members saw the opportunity to regenerate their village that was in decline. Being integrated into an existing settlement also helps to mainstream sustainability. Our educational charity draws thousands annually to learn about modern technologies that help lower emissions and our resilient community which fosters a rich sense of interdependency. We also model rural regeneration, drawing visitors to foster a new social, economic and cultural dynamism.
Our current adult membership of around 120 is diverse, ranging in age from late 20s to 80s, with many youngsters too. About half are already living in the existing village, renting while awaiting completion of their new homes, so the development of the ecovillage community is well advanced. There are shops and services to meet most everyday needs. The village station has two trains a day to Dublin (2h) and Limerick (1h) every weekday and one on Sundays. Buses also run to the three nearest towns one or two days each week.
Regular open days are held and visitors, especially prospective members, are welcome to visit. Please note, however, that casual visitors may see nothing while the site remains under construction, as the area is not visible from any public road.
The residential area was confined to a third of the site, while a further area is devoted to services and amenities including a district heating system, eco-enterprise centre, allotments and a community farm. We planted native apple trees and herb and fruit bushes to create edible landscapes. 12 acres is devoted to biodynamic farming and is one of Ireland’s few Community Support Agriculture projects. The final third hosts a woodland of 17,000 native trees, planted to contribute to biodiversity as well as wildlife corridors. A biodiversity audit has been initiated. Land use is based on ecological diversity, productive landscape and permaculture. We compost to regenerate the soil and avoid toxic substances. A survey recently conducted showed a substantial increase in birdlife on the ecovillage with 232 species identified.
The Village Ecological Charter, created by members, contains guidelines for development to reduce the impact on the natural environment and promote sustainable development. This includes targets for energy, land management, water and solid waste, construction (including materials, light and air, and ventilation), and community issues such as transport, social and communal facilities, and noise and light pollution.
We won the National Green Award for Ireland’s greenest community from 2012 to 2014 and a gold medal at the 2013 International Awards for Liveable Communities (hosted in China). This is supported by the UN Environmental Programme which recognises innovative projects demonstrating sustainability and positively impacting environmental awareness.
We were identified by the Milesecure consortium of European research centres as one of the 23 most successful ‘anticipatory experiences’, out of the 1,400 examined throughout Europe, of the transition to a low-energy society. We were the only project highlighted in the ‘manifesto for human-based governance of secure and low-carbon energy transitions.’ A comprehensive examination of tweets about 90 projects showed Cloughjordan among the top ten.
In 2014, we conducted a comprehensive community-wide measurement of our ecological footprint, achieving an EF of 2 global hectares, which is the lowest recorded for an Irish settlement. However, we plan to continue to reduce this as the estimated maximum EF for living within the planet’s biocapacity is 1.8 gHa. Our plan includes targets and periodic measurement to ensure progress and we share these through our education programmes, which are at the heart of all activities here.
In 2016, the Young Foundation identified Cloughjordan ecovillage as one of the most interesting social innovation projects in Europe.
Voted as a top place to live in Ireland by The Irish Times, Cloughjordan promotes low-carbon living that does not mean reverting to past privations, but to catalyse drawing together diverse people who make it an interesting place to live.