As a Community Land Trust (CLT), Transition Homes is a not for profit, local community controlled organisation set up to own and manage land and other assets in perpetuity, for the benefit of the community. This landmark project integrates affordable housing built with local natural materials, sustainable food and fuel production and high energy efficiency with reduced energy consumption.
This innovative proposal constitutes a practical response to the serious challenges of rising food and fuel prices, natural resource depletion and climate change that we are facing as a community and as a society. The project will provide jobs and skills training and stimulate the local economy. This is an opportunity to share our knowledge about sustainable ways of building and living which could be replicated as a development model elsewhere. It will be a pioneering and inspirational example of how people can live and work together to create more resilient communities in a low carbon future.
The lack of low-cost homes is recognised to be a major problem in the South Hams, with many people being forced to leave to find cheaper housing elsewhere. Others are forced to live with family or friends or in temporary, sub-standard, overcrowded or otherwise unsuitable accommodation. For years the supply of affordable housing has fallen well short of what is required and the situation is worse now that house building is in decline. However, not only do we need to build more homes for people on the local housing needs register, we also need to house people that ‘slip through the net’ – those that are on low or below average incomes who can’t afford to buy on the open market or are struggling to pay market rents. The CLT is building 31 homes, of which 23 are affordable homes that will consist of a mixed tenure of rent and shared ownership. As a Community Land Trust, the homes will remain affordable in perpetuity with rents kept within the housing benefit limit and ‘staircasing’ limited to a maximum 80% of market value.
By meeting strict environmental criteria in the use of the land and in the design and construction of the buildings, the development will have a small carbon footprint. It will be largely self sufficient in energy, which will be generated by the use of renewable energy technologies.
To address the issue of food security, houses will be integrated with gardens and shared growing areas will enable residents to produce their own food in a sustainable way. This will be a conscious experiment in sustainable living and the lessons learnt will be documented and shared for the benefit of the community at large.
Buildings will be clustered in terraces, leaving part free for food production. The units will sit on small garden plots and allotments, edible forest gardens and hedgerows will be incorporated into the scheme, along with other community resources and buildings. The site will be landscaped to promote bio-diversity and encourage wildlife, with a wetland area, ponds and a substantial woodland area planted to coppice for fuel. Minimal parking on site and a community car share scheme will be designed to discourage car use and encourage walking, cycling and the use of public transport.
The houses will sit lightly in the landscape and will be simple, compact and of efficient design, requiring less materials, energy and maintenance. They will be constructed using local, non-toxic, non-polluting materials using the ‘cradle-to-cradle’ philosophy and reducing the use of fossil fuels. High design and build standards will be attained through careful attention to detail and innovative solutions will be encouraged, though cost control will guide all decision making, keeping the project viable and affordable.
Each unit will be of modular design delivering a range of sizes to accommodate a range of household types, from one-bedroom units for single person households to four bedroom units for larger families and those who want to share accommodation. A Community Hub will be built as a meeting place for residents and the public, with shared facilities including a laundry, function space, and guest accommodation, with potential for work/office space above, and storage space for gardening implements and materials and bike sheds will also be provided on site.
The use of concrete will be minimised, and the shell and cladding of each house will be constructed from local, sustainably sourced timber. There will be high levels of natural insulation and air tightness and all flooring and walls will be constructed from and coated with natural, non-fossil fuel materials.
The buildings will be designed and built to maximise energy efficiency through solar orientation and passive solar gain. There will be good natural lighting and solar space heating plus triple-glazing, and all lighting and electrical appliances will be low-energy. Roof mounted photo-voltaic panels will be used to heat water, feed appliances in the buildings and potentially charge batteries during times of excess, which will otherwise be sold to the grid.
The installation of compost loos will reduce water use and provide nutrient rich compost for use on site. Rain water will be harvested from the roofs. All waste will be reduced to a minimum, using onsite composting and recycling facilities.
This development will play a role in expanding the choice and diversity in the housing stock and provide affordable, energy efficient homes for local people on low incomes and hopefully set an example to other land owners to adopt similar schemes. It will enable the occupants to live a healthier, more connected, ecological way of life as part of a stronger and more resilient community.