Ecovillages And Sustainable Communities : Modern Ecovillage Paves the Road Towards a Circular Future

Ecovillages And Sustainable Communities : Modern Ecovillage Paves the Road Towards a Circular Future

Ecovillages And Sustainable Communities : The Aardehuizen is Europe’s first neighbourhood of Earthship-type houses, and it could hold the key towards realising a fully circular future.

This is the story of a group of environmentally conscious citizens taking matters into their own hands to create a one-of-a-kind project that has inspired people from all over the world to do the same. The project took over 3 years to construct, a period in which each and every one of the inhabitants helped at least one day a week to work on the construction. It was not always easy, but everyone wholeheartedly agrees the result is worth it.

Minimising the inhabitants’ ecological footprint is the central philosophy underpinning the project. This is achieved by using mostly recycled, renewable, and locally sourced construction materials. Solar panels provide 70% of the neighbourhood’s electricity needs, while 100% of the water is sourced locally and recycled using a helophyte filter.

In addition, inhabitants aim for a low-footprint lifestyle, for instance by sharing cars and eating organic fruits and vegetables from their communal herb garden.

The project stands out in other ways as well, and they had to fight hard to accomplish it. Case in point: there is no sewage and no gas connection, two things that are mandatory according to Dutch law.

After a painstaking process in which they lobbied for regulatory exemptions that took multiple years, they finally found a municipality willing to cooperate on their vision. Their boldness has proved prescient: the Dutch government has only this year decided that all new neighborhoods should be gas-less, and that all existing gas connections ought to be phased out — a radical move for a country that has traditionally always relied on gas for all its heating needs.

The self-reliant, sustainable and innovative character of the Aardehuizen project has resulted in a continuously ongoing quest to find more optimal ways to improve the inhabitants quality of life while reducing the impact on the planet.

This quest has already led to numerous positive outcomes, such as the sharing of electric cars, the construction of a public park, and the exchange of locally produced energy among neighbors. It is innovations like these that make the Aardehuizen a successful experimental project at the forefront of urban innovation.

Although at first glance, the Aardehuizen model – especially the collective construction aspect – might seem difficult to scale and replicate, the cooperative and sustainable design philosophy has proven itself to resonate with people from all over the globe.

As a result, the lessons learned from this construction project are slowly finding their way to newer projects that will steadily improve and iterate the concept, such as the Smarthoods concept: a neighborhood in which all food, water, and energy flows are circularly connected.

Ultimately, the vision of a collectively constructed, circular, and resilient neighbourhood is one that has the potential to radically transform society from the bottom-up. In doing so, citizens take matter into their own hands in order to create a future they see fit to raise their children in. 

For more information about the Aardehuis project, see here for a photo report. Tours are given frequently, and can be booked at www.aardehuis.nl

The Smarthoods idea originated in Iceland 3 years ago, when Florijn de Graaf and Dr. Simon Goddek talked about sustainable living environments in the gym of the University of Iceland. In the following years, many ideas have been brought to paper and elaborated to a holistic concept covering the food-energy-water nexus.

This means that these three sectors are inextricably linked within the smarthoods concept. Waste streams of one system can serve as an input for another system.

A healthy environment also comprises self-sufficient food production. Horticultural aquaponics systems represent the ideal solution in terms of sustainability as well as cost and benefit. In case of an energy surplus, the greenhouse can serve as a thermal energy storage and electrical energy can be transformed into additional biomass by turning on LED lighting. 

Ecovillages And Sustainable Communities