About us

Towards greater sustainability

The buildings

Lots of developments use the term ‘eco’ in their marketing. Forge Bank delivers on the promise through PassivHaus design and green energy generation.

What makes the houses ‘eco’?

The homes are all certified to Passivhaus standard, and achieved Code for Sustainable Homes level 6 and Lifetime Homes certification. The PassivHaus standard dramatically reduces the need for space heating and can reduce heating bills substantially compared with conventional homes. We find our homes on average currently use 15% of the energy needed to heat a conventional home. PassivHaus design achieves this through:

South facing aspect and insulation

The design uses large south facing windows and doors to capture heat from the sun. Windows and external doors are all triple glazed. The external walls, roof and under-floor all have very high levels of insulation. Thermal bridging (conducting heat) between inner and outer walls is eliminated. The result is negligible heat loss during winter and the temperature of internal surfaces is almost the same as the internal air temperature, providing a very comfortable living environment.

Airtightness

The homes are built to a very high level of airtightness, tested against a leakage level specified in the PassivHaus standard. This is achieved through specialised plastering and the use of tapes and membranes to seal joins and walls. The result is no draughts and no moisture.

Mechanical ventilation and heat recovery (MVHR)

The MVHR unit continuously replaces the air in the home with fresh air from outside and, in winter, transfers the heat energy from the outgoing to the incoming air. The result is that PassivHaus homes have excellent air quality and need very little additional heating. Much of the background heating is provided by heat given out by appliances such as the fridge, oven and hobs. Even the heat given out by the occupants is significant.

Energy

Do you use renewable energy?

Yes. The homes are connected to a community microgrid. Power is from a 160kW hydro-electric scheme, Halton Lune Hydro, developed in conjunction with Halton community next to our site, and from 89kWp of roof-mounted solar panels on our roofs, owned by MORE Renewables, another local community energy company. National Grid electricity is only imported when demand exceeds supply. We are net exporters of electricity. We have a biomass boiler for hot water and heating.

How does the heating system work?

We have a district heating system which delivers hot water to each home through insulated pipes. The boiler is very efficient, fuelled by local woodchip with a gas backup, and the water is preheated by over 50m2 of solar thermal collectors. Each home has a single radiator in the living area, a heated towel rail in the bathroom, and a control box to set individual temperature and timing preferences.

Travel

Do you have a vision for travel?

Our objectives in relation to travel are shown in our Travel Plan; the main (but not the only) one is to reduce the environmental impact of our travel.

Reducing our travel footprint

There are many ways to make it easier for us to reduce the environmental impact of our travel, whether locally or further afield. For example, there is a shared community bus pass to reduce the cost of local bus journeys; the Travel Service Team maintains a bookable electric bike, a trike and a disability scooter; the car club booking website makes it easy for drivers to offer lifts; a social media channel enables people to ask for or offer lifts, or shopping.

Sharing cars

All car users in leasehold (Forgebank) homes are expected to join our car club. Our car share scheme enables the needs of about 35 people who have given up their cars to be met with just seven shared cars including three electric cars (2 Nissan Leafs and 1 Renault Zoe), and a 7-seater. We use a car-sharing website designed by Miles Doubleday, one of our members who's a software designer.

A member living in a freehold Heron Bank home has their own parking space in front of their house. They may apply to join the Car Club if they wish.

What if I really need my car?

Some prospective members looking to live in a Forgebank home have found it difficult to imagine how they will manage without their own car. We have found that, working with the Travel Service Team early on in their application for membership, we can help them think through how to meet their travel needs, and have come to some very creative solutions! Only in very specific circumstances may a member living in Forgebank apply to the Travel Service Team to keep a private car on site, eg if they need a private car for work or volunteering, or at short notice for caring etc, but they won’t necessarily be allocated a space.

Food

Our Good Food Coop team keeps us supplied with fresh veg from local organic vegetable growers and dry, chilled and frozen goods from Suma, an organic and ethical wholesaler.

Supporting more sustainable living

Shared facilities mean washing machines, lawnmowers, tools and many other things don’t need to be owned individually by each household. But the community neighbourhood itself is a great resource which makes it easier to live more sustainably in many other ways. For example, we can easily find a use for things that might otherwise go to waste, such as items only sold in quantities too big to use up; and we can ask for help or information about almost anything...

A low carbon workspace and events venue

With our land, we inherited an former oilcloth mill turned engineering works, which we have refurbished and turned into a vibrant small business, coworking, education and event space. We set up a cooperative, Green Elephant, to manage the Mill on behalf of Lancaster Cohousing, and to transfer some of the ideas of cohousing into the workspace. It encourages the sharing of resources, facilities and ideas, and helps people to reduce the environmental impact of their business activities.

Halton Mill is now full and thriving, with a packed programme of events and courses. It contains: Lunelab, a community Makerspace; the Hive coworking space; the River Room yoga and retreat space; a shared Artists’ Studio; performance and meeting rooms; and lots of individual units. Cohousers get a 20% discount on renting space there - it has hosted many cohousing parties.

Mill Building