Preserving Local Farms

  1. Part of our mission is to preserve local farms and natural tracts of land.  One way to achieve this is through the introduction of small-scale, farm-based communities that can help make the farm or preserved natural tract of land more economically viable.    

Solar Hamlets

  1. Our term for eco-friendly farm-based communities is “Solar Hamlet”.  A hamlet can be defined as a small rural settlement within a larger rural community. Our intent is to create Solar Hamlets within greater rural communities. 

  2.     Solar Hamlets enhance existing rural communities and make them more vibrant.  They can have a positive social and environmental impact, reversing modern trends of loss of social services in rural areas and degradation of the environment through non-ecological farming practices or over-development.  Solar Hamlet projects can help reverse these trends, and serve as models for environmental and social sustainability as a rural community grows. They can also attract employment opportunities and vital social services while fostering wellness, healthy living and access to fresh local food and the arts.  Limited sustainable development, achieved with a combination of conservation and renewable resources, organic growing techniques, and an emphasis on fresh local food and healthy living, can improve rather than degrade the environment.


  3. The Land

The land for a solar hamlet might have gently rolling farm fields, some wooded areas, and possibly a year round stream. Approximately 1/4 of the land is for human activity, and 3/4 is designated as farm and open common space. 


The Hamlet

The hamlet could consist of individual and attached residences, a centre with cafe and bakery, a mix of small studio/business spaces, workshop, greenhouse and barn, walking/skiing trails, ball court/skating rink, community gardens, and other spaces in keeping with a sustainable, healthy lifestyle. There could be a “village green” adjacent to the hamlet centre and a larger green space in the middle of the residential area. The centre and studio/business spaces could be open to the public, and situated near the hamlet entrance and the main parking area.

The Structures

The homes and other structures typically have light, open interiors, with exteriors reminiscent of island heritage architecture. They are smart homes, designed for good solar exposure, long life and minimal use of resources, both when built and during their lifespan. Small physical footprints are encouraged, and even the larger structures have small ecological footprints. Common buildings might have solar arrays and convenient plug-ins for electric vehicles.

The Systems

Electricity - The electrical power needs of a typical solar hamlet are reduced by a combination of efficiency and conservation (these represent an under-utilized “source” of energy). Reduced power needs are met by arrays of photovoltaic solar panels on hamlet structures and possibly farm-scale wind generators sited with appropriate setbacks from the hamlet and neighbouring homes.

  This locally produced renewable power can be fed into the utility grid, with power production capacity designed to meet a structure’s annual electrical consumption. Underground wiring is used throughout the hamlet. Interior lighting is provided by abundant daylighting and high-efficiency fixtures. Exterior lighting is provided by low-key pathway lights.

Heat, Hot Water & Ventilation - Space heating systems include passive solar gain combined with well-designed spaces and super-insulation; efficient boilers and centrally located fire-view stoves (wood, pellet or gas); heat distribution through radiant floors and efficient wall radiators; and efficient heat pumps. Hot water systems include active solar systems, efficient tankless water heaters and heat recovery devices that preheat incoming water with the heat contained in shower and sink grey water. Central heat recovery ventilation units are employed.  A central, low-emission “gasification” biomass boiler with heating loop for the core of the hamlet may be installed if this proves to be cost effective and meets strict emissions standards. Fast growing biomass crops used as fuel in a central boiler could be grown on on the property if this proves feasible.

Water - Water is supplied to the hamlet by several common wells. A local engineering company ensures that aquifer capacity in the area is more than adequate. A program of water conservation, efficient plumbing fixtures, rainwater collection and water recycling greatly reduces water consumption and ensures an abundant supply of water for the hamlet and surrounding homeowners. Water purification and testing is part of the sustainability program.

Sewage - Sustainable sewage treatment is a high priority, and potentially one of the most exciting of the hamlet systems. Proven technologies such as solar aquatic and plant-based filtration systems, and even systems that convert sewage and other potentially valuable organic wastes into energy are possible.

Roads & Drainage - The hamlet may have a one-way road loop servicing the buildings and residences and well positioned entrance and exit points off the main road. The entrance and exit will allow for good visibility and adequate turning radius. The one-way road loop will meet local standards, while having a minimal visual impact in keeping with the hamlet concept and design. A local engineering company can design the hamlet’s drainage plan to have adequate safeguards to ensure that storm water is safely contained and absorbed back into the land.


Sustainability And A Sense Of Aesthetics

A solar hamlet has sensible covenants in place to maintain a vision of sustainability, as well as a strong sense of aesthetics. Clotheslines, smart water use, and natural household cleaning products are strongly encouraged, and only natural lawn, garden and farm amendments are allowed. Aesthetic considerations include the use of low-noise tools and appliances, an outside night-time noise curfew, low level exterior pathway lighting to minimize night-sky light pollution, and natural landscaping with an emphasis on native species and combined edible and ornamental plantings.


Ownership and Access

In solar hamlets the residents are typically diverse and of varying ages and incomes. Some residents are local and some are from away; some will reside in the hamlet full time and others seasonally. Many will be self-employed or have the opportunity to work from home. Hamlet residents own their home and legally defined and surveyed home site, and have access to the hamlet’s common structures and all paths and trails. Residents also have the first opportunity to lease studio/business spaces and land for commercial organic farm or market garden operations or other small-scale green businesses. Bank financing for hamlet residences works the same as bank financing for condominium apartments within commonly held buildings.


Costs

There is typically an initial shareholder buy-in cost that allows access to a home site or townhouse space, and to the hamlet centre and all common infrastructure and land. There are also modest annual fees to cover infrastructure operation and maintenance costs. The actual construction cost of the homes is similar to the cost of equivalent efficient construction, and is relative to the size of the home’s physical footprint, the home’s systems and their efficiency, and the type of finish materials selected. Homeowners will benefit from standardized construction and group purchasing. Owner participation in the construction of their home is often encouraged.


Summary

Solar Hamlets are models of sensible sustainable development. Residents who share an appreciation of a healthy environment and natural aesthetics will find Solar Hamlets a great place to live and work.


Contact:

for more information about Farm-Based Communities and Solar Hamlets, contact:

Kevin Jeffrey

Avalon House EcoBuilders

office:  902.659.2790   mobile: 902.314.3078

kevin@avalonhouseecobuilders.com

 

Farm-Based Communities

- Promoting sensible green concepts and technologies

- Creating inspiring “small footprint” eco homes, tiny houses and additions

- Preserving farms with organic production and small-scale farm-based communities

Avalon House EcoBuilders    tel: 902.314.3078         kevin@avalonhouseecobuilders.com