Cloughjordan Ecovillage in County Tipperary is an intentional community of about 100 people (both adults and children) which was first conceived of in 1999. It has been developed by Sustainable Projects Ireland, a registered educational charity and national NGO, on a 27-hectare farm adjoining the village of Cloughjordan. The project aims to create an environmentally, socially and economically sustainable community.
The Cloughjordan Ecovillage Community
In addition to 55 homes that are heated and supplied with hot water by the community's renewable energy district heating system (DHS), the ecovillage has a hostel, allotments, research gardens, Ireland's first Community-Supported Agriculture (CSA) farm, an enterprise centre, an amphitheatre for cultural events, a woodland, an amenity field used by the local scouts and soccer club, and on-site local businesses. The ecovillage envisages up to 78 further homes (houses, apartments or co-housing units) and as of 2019 is actively working towards beginning a new building phase. Given its commitment to awareness-raising and education on a wide variety of issues, from energy conservation and production to sustainable livelihoods and food production, the ecovillage welcomes a steady stream of visitors, from school to university students, and interested members of the public.
Building Design and Operation at Cloughjordan Ecovillage
Members buy sites from Sustainable Projects Ireland, building their own houses to their own designs, in keeping with the principles and specifications of the community's Ecological Charter. As a result, many different building types have been used, including passive timber frame with a variety of insulations and finishes, Durisol blocks (blocks of chipped wastewood bonded with ecocement), sheep’s wool, cellulose (shredded newspaper), hemp-lime, cob (clay, sand, and straw), a Canadian stick-frame house with double stud walls, and kit houses, while natural slates or recycled plastic roof tiles and 'green roofs' are widely used. These provide a colourful variety of different designs and finishes that give the ecovillage a very distinctive look compared to other residential areas in Ireland. At the time it was built, around 2010, it had some of the lowest Building Energy Ratings (BER) in Ireland. It is estimated that the DHS, which runs on wood chip and solar, saves 113.5 tonnes annually of carbon that would be emitted by a conventional heating systems for the number of houses served.
Ecological Footprints at Cloughjordan Ecovillage
Ecological footprint analysis at Cloughjordan took place via participatory methods in which residents were actively involved in the design, data collection, interpretation and communication of findings, in line with the village's stated aim to be a working example of sustainable settlement and interest in monitoring progress towards this goal. Findings from a household survey completed by 47 of the 50 households in the ecovillage at the time showed residents to have an average ecological footprint (EF) of 2.03 global hectares (gha). Based on WWF estimates that the maximum average EF that would allow humanity as a whole to live within planetary limits, this represents an ecological overshoot of around ten per cent. The figure is slightly higher than the per capita EF forecast by five founder residents involved in the original ecovillage design (1.95 gha), well under half the EF calculated in a study of 79 Irish villages in 2006 (4.35 gha), and nearly a third lower than the EF in another Irish village that had achieved significant reductions via a four-year carbon reduction programme (2.93 gha).
Low EFs at Cloughjordan were achieved through technological, social and behavioural measures. The village's woodchip-powered district heating system means EF resulting from energy use in Cloughjordan was 6.5 times lower than the national average, while use of LED lighting and high efficiency appliances means energy EF is 48% lower than the national average. Composting, recycling and use of shared bins help keep waste EF to 0.32 gha, compared to a national average of 0.89 gha. Calculation of food EF showed this to be 2.3 times less than the national average due to higher proportions of plant-based foods, without taking into account the further benefits of self-cultivaton, permaculture growing and purchase of local produce. Despite many ecovillage residents having lengthy commutes to work, the EF due to car transport was slightly below the national average (0.33 gha compared with 0.36 gha). EF resulting from air transport was slightly higher than national averages; however the small size of this compared with the markedly lower figures in other areas meant the impact on overall figures was relatively low.
- Kirby, P., 2016. CLOUGHJORDAN ECOVILLAGE: Modeling the Transition to a Low-Carbon Society. Communities 49–53.
- Carragher, V., Peters, M., 2018. Engaging an ecovillage and measuring its ecological footprint. Local Environment 23: 861–878. https://doi.org/10.1080/13549839.2018.1481021