Kaid Benfield Archive


Ireland’s eco-village at Cloughjordan

Kaid Benfield

Posted March 17, 2009 at 1:29PM

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     rendering of The Village's potential (by: thevillage.ie) 

Ireland's claimed "first eco-village" has recently begun construction in County Tipperary, adjacent to the traditional rural village of Cloughjordan, which traces its history back to the 13th century.  Consisting of 130 new homes on 67 acres that will include a working farm, "The Village," as it is now known, will become part of the town of Cloughjordan.

The project will substantially enlarge the existing town, which had a population of 431 in 2002.  The new village's idealistic founders were looking for a place with existing resources and community assets to build upon, to renew a place that was in decline, rather than to start afresh and waste resources.  cider-making day in Cloughjordan (by: thevillage.ie)Cloughjordan currently has a train station, shops and pubs, a post office, a credit union, two schools, a public library, a pharmacy and excellent sports facilities, according to The Village's website.

Only the portion of the site close to the existing town will be built upon; most of the remainder will be farmed for community supported agriculture.  The Village offers 130 buildable sites of five different types: apartments, terraces, semi-detached, detached and live/work units. They range in size from multifamily sites up to sites for detached homes of approximately one fifth of an acre each.  Average net density will be about seven units per acre.

The Village is very much an intentional community.  Its residents are referred to as "members" and go through an interviewing process.  They must subscribe to a legally binding member agreement and the project's "ecological charter," which specifies construction and operations guidelines for energy efficiency, heating, biodiversity, water and waste management, and maintenance of a healthy indoor environment, among other things.  the site plan (by: thevillage.ie)There is a district heating system, and buildings will be oriented for maximum solar exposure (I can't help but note than Ireland's maximum isn't exactly Arizona's, though).  Once on board, members share equally in the Village's collective governing structure. 

This is not an urban setting with established public transit, but the website, summarizing the charter, says this about transport:

"The Village will encourage the use of public transport, car-pooling, community transport schemes, cycling and walking as modes of transportation. Individual parking will be limited to one space per household. Roads will be downsized in order to promote the concept of home-zones."

There's no question that The Village will be highly walkable in its connections to shops and amenities in Cloughjordan. 

The project's founders came together in 1999 to incorporate Sustainable Projects Ireland Limited, which conducts business as The Village.  There was extensive consultation with the citizens of the existing town, which has welcomed the new development.  the coach house (by: thevillage.ie)Land adjacent to the project has also been zoned for sustainable development.

Many of the sites have been sold, and construction of homes began last month.  The first residents of the community will live in a row of traditional style lime-hemp townhouses.  A coach house at the entrance to the development (see photo) is being renovated to become the project's first community building.  An "eco-enterprise centre" to help new green businesses is being built in The Village, and Mendes Go Car, a car-sharing operation, has also established a presence in the community.  In addition, farming has begun on 40 acres of the site.  A tree nursery, featuring 100 varieties of apple trees, has been established.

     Sheelagh na Gig (by: thevillage.ie)     looking out Sheelagh na Gig's window (by: Sheelagh na Gig)

Two of the Village's first members, Mollie Barrow and Elizabeth O' Shea, moved to Cloughjordan and launched a bookstore and coffee shop, Sheelagh na Gig (see photos), just down the street from the Village's main entrance in October 2006.  (Lots of neat information and interesting friends on their MySpace site, too.)

It must be said that The Village is not without its critics.  Some question the rural, auto-dependent location, and the lack of subsidized affordable housing (though members say they will be happy to build some if there is demand).  I wish there were more connectivity than the cul-de-sac street pattern apparently affords, particularly if more sustainable development is built nearby in the future.  Go here for a lively online exchange about the pros and cons of the project.

But, best of all, click on the link below for a short video about The Village: 


You can't help but like these folks, and I'm pulling for them.  Slainte.