The Findhorn Ecovillage is a synthesis of some of the very best of current thinking on sustainable human settlements. It is a constantly evolving model used as learning environment by a number of university and school groups as well as by professional organisations and municipalities worldwide.
The ecovillage model presents itself as an inspiring and viable solution to eradication of poverty and degradation of the environment, while combining a supportive social-cultural environment with a low-impact lifestyle. Join our programmes to learn more.
Our campus is used as a teaching resource by a number of university and school groups as well as by professional organisations.
For more information about our programmes click here
Findhorn International Centre for Sustainability – programmes and events for sustainability professionals16
The Findhorn Foundation is a dynamic experiment where everyday life is guided by the inner voice of spirit, where we work in co-creation with the intelligence of nature and take inspired action towards our vision of a better world. We share our learning and way of life in experiential workshops, conferences and events that take place within a thriving community and ecovillage.
The Foundation has two main sites. The Park, nestled amidst dunes and forest, bay and beach, is an ecovillage that is home to many of our staff and a larger community of people living with shared values. Cluny Hill is a stately Victorian former hotel, five miles away from The Park, which houses staff and welcomes participants in our workshops and events. Our retreat house on the island of Iona, and the satellite community on the neighbouring island of Erraid, also welcome participants for life-changing experiences on the wild, wind-swept west coast of Scotland.
The Findhorn Foundation is an NGO associated with the United Nations Department of Public Information, holder of UN Habitat Best Practice designation and is co-founder of the Global Ecovillage Network and Holistic Centres Network. The Foundation is at the heart of a community of more than 500 people who every day support and live the vision of creating a better world by starting with themselves.10
The construction of zero carbon buildings and the retrofitting of existing buildings offer some of the most cost-effective and most immediate strategies in response to climate change.
Over the years we have developed a unique environmentally sound, energy efficient construction system using natural materials and incorporating ‘breathing wall’ construction which eliminates the need for a vapor barrier and allows the fabric of the building to interact with the indoor climate in a beneficial way.
We have also experimented with straw bale construction. We developed the guidelines for ecological housing design and construction and published Simply Build Green, the UK’s first ecological building manual. 125 new ecological buildings have been erected to date, built to strict ecological guidelines, with passive solar design, high insulation, and environmentally benign materials.
In 2008 a visual arts center Moray Art Centre was opened serving the region with museum-quality exhibition space and several studios. With photovoltaic panels supplying electricity and ground source heat pumps supplying all heating, the arts center is considered an exemplar in local materials and craftsmanship.
Between 2011 and 2014, Soilse, a new multi-generational cohousing carbon zero development was established. With its own biomass district heating, its super-insulated houses adopted triple glazing throughout the buildings. The co-housing was first in the UK to utilize the 425mm thick insulated block.
In 2012 co-housing neighborhood East Whins broke ground in a ‘brownfield’ site, providing 20 passive solar design, highly insulated houses.
The ecovillage at Findhorn has erected 61 ecological buildings to date and there are ongoing plans for the continued construction of an ecologically respectful built environment.
Over the years we have developed a unique construction system, environmentally sound and energy efficient. Using natural and non-toxic materials we have developed a ‘breathing wall’ structure, which allows the fabric of a building to interact beneficially with people to moderate humidity and air quality.
We have also experimented with straw bale construction, the ‘Earthship’ system using recycled car tires, and remain open to further new and innovative ecological solutions for the built environment.
The publication of Simply Build Green, the UK’s first technical guide to ecological housing, based on our own research and experience, has helped the ecovillage become a major resource for environmental education locally, nationally and internationally.
|Ecological details featured in our buildings include:|
|»||Use of passive solar features where possible through orientation and window layout.|
|»||Use of solar panels for domestic hot water heating.|
|»||A district heating system using a gas condensing boiler for highest fuel efficiency.|
|»||Super efficient insulation (U-values of 0.2 watts/m2 C in roof, walls and floors).|
|»||Low-energy light bulbs throughout.|
|»||Triple glazing (U=1.65 watts/m2 C).|
|»||Cellulose insulation (made from recycled paper).|
|»||Non-toxic organic paints and wood preservatives throughout.|
|»||Boarding manufactured without the use of toxic glues or resins.|
|»||Locally grown and harvested timber from managed forests.|
|»||Local stone for skirting, patios and pathways.|
|»||Roofing with natural clay tiles.|
|»||Innovative ‘breathing wall’ construction allowing a controlled exchange of air & vapor, and eliminating the need for a conventional vapor barrier.|
|»||Suspended timber floors for underfloor air circulation to avoid any possible build-up of radon gas.|
|»||Isolating electrical circuits to reduce electromagnetic field stress.|
|»||Water conservation (showers, low-flush toilets, and self-closing taps).|
|»||Collection and recycling of rainwater for garden use.|
|»||Shared facilities (laundry, kitchens, lounges) avoiding unnecessary duplication.|
|»||Simple timber frame construction and detailing, suitable for Self Building|
ORGANIC FOOD PRODUCTION
From the early days when the founders grew extremely large vegetables in their modest family garden to today’s forest garden in the hinterlands of the Park, co-creation with nature and agriculturally productive ecosystems have always been at the centre of Findhorn life.
In 1994 a Community Supported Agriculture (CSA) scheme calledEarthShare, based on organic and biodynamic farming methods, was established to increase the availability of local produce as well as to enhance the quality of our food. It was the first one in the UK.
Over 15 years the scheme expanded from 5 to 25 acres, including cooperating with Cullerne Gardens, the Findhorn Foundation’s market garden. It spread over three sites, and provided much of the community’s temperate vegetables to the Foundation’s kitchens as well as supplying over one hundred individual households.
Since Earthshare ceased to operate in 2010, other initiatives have sprung up to provide local and organic foods. A box scheme project – Roots Shoots and Leaves – recruits fruit and veg from a number of local growers and sells their produce in its online shop. The scheme takes weekly orders of what is available by Tuesdays and delivers on Thursdays.
Cullerne Gardens continues to grow food that goes primarily to the Findhorn Foundation kitchens at The Park and Cluny Hill; however, a large cart with surplus vegetables is frequently available at the top of the runway in The Park, for local residents to purchase by donation.
Furthermore cohousing clusters have shared gardens while many residents grow food around their homes.13
RENEWABLE ENERGY SYSTEMS
Numerous homes and community buildings incorporate solar panels for hot water heating. A community company supplies panels to residential and commercial customers throughout the UK, both for new buildings and to retrofit existing buildings. Most new community buildings incorporate design features that invite passive solar radiation to reduce building heating needs, such as south-facing windows and conservatories and minimal wall openings on north walls. Sustainably harvested wood provides space heating for both new and older homes.
Our four community-owned wind turbines, which have a total capacity of 750kW, supply more than 100% of the community’s electricity needs. Our system is unusual in that the community owns its own private electricity grid, the main campus having originally been a private caravan park.The electricity produced by the turbines is sent to a substation that meters the flows, alters the transmission voltages and acts as a switching station. When the wind blows the electricity is used on-site. If production exceeds demand the surplus is exported to the grid. If the wind does not blow the site imports from the grid. Overall we are net exporters of electricity. Green electricity generation is one of our successful community businesses.
The guidelines for new buildings in the ecovillage encourage very high levels of insulation and double- or triple-glazed windows with low-emission window coatings. Architects are encouraged to incorporate energy efficiency considerations into every building design. Energy efficient compact fluorescent light bulbs are installed in many residences, businesses and community buildings. The ecovillage is a test case for a research project on the feasibility of using load management technology, which is equipment that helps match the electricity output of the wind turbines with the electricity requirements of community homes and businesses Energy running costs for newer houses are many times less than the running costs for the original old caravans.
Over the years we have developed our own sustainably harvested woodland generating circa 26 tons of firewood a year. Increased use of wood for space and water heating has gradually eliminated the use of coal, and where possible a shift has been to propane instead of oil, as the less polluting option.
Using solar, wind and wood, combined with highly energy-efficient features in our new buildings, the Findhorn ecovillage now receives 28% of its total non-transportation energy from renewable sources. We expect to increase this percentage as caravans are gradually replaced with energy-efficient new houses.
FINDHORN WIND PARK
Our wind energy project started in 1989 when we erected a Vestas V17 75 kW wind turbine. This turbine, named Moya after the Sesotho word for ‘wind and spirit’, has been extremely successful and reliable, providing about 20% of the electricity needs of the Findhorn Ecovillage. This initial phase was financially successful, repaying the initial investment of £75,000 in approximately five years.
We have now erected three additional second-hand Vestas V29 turbines (‘The Three Graces’), each capable of delivering 225kW and giving a total installed capacity of 750 kW. With support from the Scottish Community and Householder Renewable Initiative, our planning application was submitted in June 2004, and we received a planning permit in January 2005 after a public hearing. The expansion undertaken by Findhorn Wind Park Ltd has cost £605,000. The project investment came from NFD Ltd (which operated the original turbine), Ekopia Ltd (our development trust) and Caledonia Renewable Energy Co-operative, which is part of the Energy4All group. Construction was completed by DMH Blacksmiths of Inverness in January 2006 and commissioning was completed in the following March.
These additional turbines make us net exporters of electricity. About 50% of the electricity produced is used on-site via our private grid, and the remainder is distributed to the main grid.
Research into the potential for the production and use of hydrogen fuel cells is something we are currently exploring.
In a recent study of the community’s current energy consumption, we found we are now using renewable energy for about 28% of our needs. This takes into account the element of hydropower in our current mains supply as well as our own wind turbines’ production, the use of firewood for backup and primary heating, and the elements of active and passive solar design in new buildings. The balance still comes largely from fossil fuels. Our goal is to continue to increase the percentage of our ecovillage’s energy needs produced from renewable sources.
The Lowest Ecological Footprint in the UK
In 2006 an independent study by the Stockholm Environment Institute concluded that the residents have the lowest ecological footprint of any community measured so far in the industrialised world and are also half of the UK average, The study found that residents of The Park and the nearby campus of Cluny Hill College have, on average, a footprint of 2.71 hectares per capita, a little over half the UK national average of 5.4 hectares. Of particular significance are the results relating to food, ‘home and energy’ use, and ‘consumables and personal possessions’ which have 35%, 27% and 44% of the national average respectively.13
ECOLOGICAL WASTE WATER TREATMENT
On the 13th of October 1995 Jonathan Porritt opened Europe’s first Living Machine ® at the Findhorn Ecovillage. This ecologically engineered sewage treatment plant is designed to treat sewage from the population of up to 500 people living at the Findhorn Ecovillage and is providing a research and educational facility to promote ecological water treatment technology throughout the world.
Ecological water treatment systems such as the Living Machine ® and Biomatrix ® Remediation systems, treat wastewater based on a ‘whole systems’ approach to biological technology. They utilise a set of sequenced, complete ecologies. Treatment can be taken to advanced standards in cost effective projects, which are reliable, robust and aesthetically pleasing. The approach represents a shift from high energy, chemically intensive treatment, to the adoption of the principles of ecological engineering.
In the Living Machine ® sewage arrives in a greenhouse containing a series of tanks. Diverse communities of bacteria, algae, micro-organisms, numerous species of plants and trees, snails, and fish interact as whole ecologies in these tanks and biofilters. These mirror processes that occur in the natural world, but do so more intensively. At the end of the series of tanks, the resulting water is pure enough to discharge directly into the sea or to be recycled. The technology is not only capable of meeting tough new sewage outflow standards, but uses no chemicals, and has a relatively inexpensive capital cost attached.
Biomatrix Water is based at Findhorn and the founding partners of the Biomatrix Water team have over two decades of experience designing and delivering ecological engineering projects for the treatment and recycling of municipal and industrial wastewater and bioremediation. The design approach applies current best practice in modern wastewater treatment and process control with the latest developments in ecological engineering. The resulting research shows that the wise use of modern materials, biomimicry, and design innovation, provide an effective solution to the problems of urban water pollution and aquatic habitat degradation.
LIVING MACHINE ® is a registered trademark/service mark of Iasis Limited, Taos New Mexico. All rights reserved.
BIOMATRIX ® is a registered trademark of Biomatrix Water LLP, Findhorn, Scotland. All rights reserved.
For more information about ecological systems for wastewater treatment and bioremediation visit www.biomatrixwater.com
- FINDHORN ECOVILLAGE THE PARK
- FORRES IV36 3TZ, MORAY
- SCOTLAND, UNITED KINGDOM