The Cloughjordan Ecovillage started as a plan to create a community of dedicated environmentalists; to buy a site on which they could build their lives. The very first residents of Ireland's first ecovillage moved into their homes in 2009.
Today, with 55 low-carbon homes, a carbon-neutral district heating system, a community farm, a green enterprise centre, a planned reed-bed treatment plant, a photovoltaic power plant, and Ireland’s lowest ecological footprint, the ecovillage is demonstrating different ways to achieve ecological, economic, and social sustainability.
Local Community, cooperation, ecovillage, sustainability, low ecological footprint
Ongoing - From 1999 to now
First, the Central Hotel in the city centre of Dublin and Sustainable Projects Ireland Ltd pitched their ambitious idea of Ireland’s first ecovillage to the public. Then people declared commitment and invested in the development of the village. The initiators and future inhabitants of the village worked together on discussing the problems and choosing the path forward which included choosing the way how the houses in the village will be built, what kind of heating will they use, etc.
Scale(s) of the case analysed
Target audience and dimension
Domain(s) of application
Challenge addressed/ Problem-led approach
Impact to climate neutrality
Cloughjordan is a showcase for natural building techniques, from traditional cob houses to straw bale walls, or timber frame kit houses. All of them tap into a district heating system that burns wood waste from a nearby sawmill and provides low-carbon heating and hot water.
Many residents have built what they needed to run a business and work from home, including workshops and a bakery. Others work at a green business centre on the site, while a train link to Dublin and Limerick keeps the city accessible. The village also hosts Ireland’s leading community-supported agriculture initiative, where paid farmers supply organic produce to a membership of local households.
Villagers live as sustainably as they know and help each other in being better. Moreover, they also host visits and online teaching where they teach others how to follow their steps
Context & Public policy of reference
- The European Climate Law – the village shows how the sustainable societies of the future should look like
- Ireland’s Climate Action and Low Carbon Development (Amendment) Act 2021 – bringing Ireland closer to the goals of emission reduction and setting a good example of a low carbon community
Innovative approach(es) addressed
Members of Cloughjordan ecovillage adopted the idea of shared purposes and principles and shared out responsibilities.
Everything regarding the Cloughjordan Ecovillage was agreed upon during regular meetings between its then-future residents. They used consensus decision-making to ensure each community member had their say in the development plan. Each step of the project was decided upon as a community, from choosing the location of Cloughjordan to agreeing upon the Ecological Charter for sustainable housing development.
All members of Cloughjordan Ecovillage use the process of consensus decision-making to arrive at decisions. Instead of voting for an item, consensus decision-making ensures that everyone’s opinions, ideas, and reservations are taken into account. Consensus is a process that can result in surprising and creative solutions and is committed to finding solutions that everyone can live with.
Among other things, the farming methods, and biodiversity garden help keep the average ecovillager’s ecological footprint for Cloughjordan’s ecovillage low. As does a central district heating system that is fuelled by wood pellets, before piping heat under the ground into each house and building in the village. Unused timber from a nearby sawmill in Ballinasloe arrives twice per week. The village also hosts Ireland’s leading community-supported agriculture initiative, where paid farmers supply organic produce to a membership of local households.
The Central Hotel in the city centre of Dublin and Sustainable Projects Ireland Ltd
Stakeholder networks and organisational model
No. of people
In the beginning, gave deposits in order for the idea of ecovillage to become the reality. Now they live in the village.
Visit the village and learn from the inhabitants
Do research using the data from the village
Visit the village and learn from the inhabitants
nteraction between participants
Economic: enough private investment to buy the land and build the village
Social: community willing to initiate change
Technical: enough knowledge about renewable energy sources to decide what technology to use in the village
Key inhibiting factors
Economic: building an ecovillage is not something that is cheap, either a large amount of private investment is needed, or some funding needs to be found.
Social: life in such a community is not for everyone, all members of the community need to adjust to sustainable living, all need to participate in the decision-making, etc.
Drawbacks/pros/cons of the solutions (after implementation)
The major drawback was the economic crash of 2008 which forced 50% of those who have invested in the purchase to pull out of the project.
Another drawback is the technical issue. Although the village has a PV power plant that should supply the village with electrical energy, it isn’t working properly and thus the village is mostly supplied through the grid.
The idea of the ecovillage could theoretically be applied to any location at any time if enough people and funds are collected. The only thing that would be needed is the initiator of the process who would find the location where the ecovillage can be built, as well as people interested to invest their money in order to build the ecovillage.
Nevertheless, such an approach is not something that is for everyone. People who would live in such a community would need to be more focused on living in a sustainable way and would need to be willing to actively participate in regular meetings where all the decisions regarding the village would be made.
Main positive lessons/opportunities identified
- People invested in the creation of the ecovillage
- Every person participated in building their home
- The village tries to have everything locally produced, for now, it has a bakery, paid farmers supplying organic produce to membership of local households, and a wood waste supplier for the district heating
Main failures/barriers identified
- Even though it is one of the greenest societies, it is still not net-zero
- The PV power plant that was installed for the village is not working properly
- Such a way of living is not for everyone
- Number of households in the ecovillage: 55
- Number of inhabitants: 130
- Energy production through district heating
- Local food production