Ecological Building

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.

In terms of the built environment, there have been 125 ecological buildings erected to date, built to strict ecological guidelines. The settlement is famous for its recycled whisky barrel houses, the Nature Sanctuary built from local stone and whisky barrel parts and experimental ‘small’ houses and eco-mobiles. New buildings have incorporated passive solar features and 2.5 times the insulation required by Scottish building regulations.

We have also experimented with straw bale construction, the 'Earthship' system using recycled car tires, and remain open to develop and test innovative, energy-efficient construction systems.

In 2008 a visual arts centre - Moray Art Centre - was opened, serving the region with city art gallery-quality exhibition space and several studios. With photovoltaic panels supplying electricity and ground source heat pumps supplying all heating, the arts centre is considered an exemplar of local materials and craftsmanship.

Between 2011 and 2014, Soillse, a new multi- generational co-housing carbon zero development was established. With its own biomass district heating, its super-insulated houses adopted triple glazing throughout. The co-housing was the first in the UK to utilise the 425mm thick insulated block. The site is a compact one acre and includes a 64m2 polycarbonate polytunnel, outdoor growing areas, and a communal yurt space for gatherings and seminars.

In 2012 co-housing neighbourhood East Whins broke ground in a ‘brownfield’ site, providing 20 passive solar design, highly insulated houses. This has been followed by the West Whins cluster of 6 small flats in 2017, and most recently in 2019 by the North Whins affordable housing flats.

The publication of Simply Build Green, a technical guide to ecological housing, based on our own research and experience, has helped the ecovillage become a major reference in 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