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ECO-SETTLEMENTS FOR HEALTHY GROWTH OF A CITY

Project of NGO Green Housing Association, Czech Republic

The Green Housing Association

was founded in Zlin, Czech Republic in 1999. It is a non-profit, non-governmental (NGO) organization associating members on the basis of their interest in environmental issues and modern sustainable housing. Our mission is to support morally, legally and profesionally the idea of low-energy, eco-friendly buildings and other systems reducing negative influence of housing to the nature, landscape and environment.

For these reasons the organization establishes and runs corresponding facilities of education and communication and provides consultancy, lectures, publications, organizational and legal help for construction of eco-buildings and other eco-friendly housing systems.

Besides the membership fees and local sponsorship, the financing of our activities was supported by the Czech Energy Agency (1999), The Environmental Partnership Foundation (2000), USAID´s EcoLinks programme (2000) and the Danish Outdoor Council (2001). Since 2005 we are participating at EU Concerto programme focused on energy savings and utilization of RES on buildings.

Eco-settlements for healthy growth of a city

is a demonstration project of building at the transition between the existing conurbation and open countryside, extremely considerate to the nature and minimalizing dependence on nonrenewable energy sources.

Abstract

There is no doubt that most cities will continue to grow and new residential areas of family houses will be established at city outskirts. However, living in a traditional family house – compared to living in a flat of an apartment house, so far typical in Czech and other CEE countries – brings higher exploitation of natural resources (land, energy for heating and air conditioning, water for flowering garden and house maintenance) per 1 inhabitant. Also investment costs and maintenance expenses are substantially higher with family houses compared to apartments.

But is it really necessary? Must we pay for a higher comfort of housing by reduction of other yards of assimilating green areas? Must individual housing really be more expensive in terms of investment and maintenance costs? Must 1 inhabitant living in a family house really consume more energy and water compared to an inhabitant living in an apartment house?

Our intention is to demonstrate that environmentally, economically, and socially healthy growth of a city can be accomplished without an excessive exploitation of natural and human resources. We are building a demonstration eco-community at outskirts of Zlin, the Czech Republic. Low-energy, earth-sheltered houses are the main elements of the community. They are passive-solar buildings where surrounding earth has an important role in their thermal balance. Houses of this type have been built over 20 years particularly in the USA and they reach an average heat consumption of 15 kWh/m2 year, i.e. 3,3 x less compared to the EU standard for low-energy buildings. In addition to their extraordinary energy savings of 70 – 85% compared to conventional houses of the same size, earth-sheltered homes can have many other advantages:

  • good compatibility with nature and landscape. After completing the construction and covering + planting the roof, there is renewed the original green area
  • possibility of utilization of slopes and other lands not suitable for traditional housing or agriculture
  • maximum security from fire, storms, hailstorms, earthquakes and other natural disasters
  • increased safety due to reduced chances of burglary and vandalism
  • noise insulation provided by earth. This enables a quiet housing even in noise exposed localities near busy roads, airports etc.
  • maintenance requires substantially less expenses and time
  • protection from rising fossil fuel costs.

Additional issues are being implemented:

  • complex solution of supplying the eco-community with heat and hot water from renewable sources (solar thermal systems, with a backlog support from photovoltaics)
  • system of considerate water management based on a) collecting rain water, b) wastewater treatment at a vegetation (reedbed) sewage plant. Cleaned water of both sources are then re-used for watering gardens, flushing and other technical reasons
  • maximum utilization of materials obtained in-site. The usage of rammed earth for interior, non-supporting walls further decrease the energy balance of the building as it saves energy for production and tranportation of equivalent amount of concrete or bricks.

We would also like to prove that realization of a project with such a high environmental and moral value can uplift people and that the life in correspondence to nature can contribute to the harmony of interpersonal relations.

Organization and financing of the project

There are 6 private investors – members of the Green Housing Association who decided to purchase the convenient land and build their demonstration eco-homes there. We are looking for another 3 (or 1 „bigger“) investors to realize the project of a terrace house, see the picture below. Moreover, the Association itself would like to equip it´s office and training / demonstration room.

The total budget of the project is 43.5 mil. CZK, i.e. approx. € 1,55 mil. of which approx. € 800,000 have already been invested by 6 private investors for their homes and necessary infra-structure, with € 25,000 participation of the Danish Outdoor Council for the vegetation sewage treatment.

14th October, 2009
Ludek Frkal

 
 
 
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