Reg Charity No: 301343

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Building Ethos

Highwood is a rural community and a significant proportion of the Parish is covered with precious ancient woodland.  The environment is important to residents and we wanted to do our best to build our new community building with minimal impact on the local and global environment.  We have tried to do this by demonstrating on one site the various approaches to building design, construction and use that can be taken to reduce energy demand and CO2 output.

Sustainable Development – This community buidling has been designed to promote opportunity for social cohesion, inclusion and equality in a building that is environmentally responsible and economically viable long term.  This approach is regarded as ‘Sustainable Development’ and the Highwood Village Hall is a Sustainable Construction. 

Energy Efficient - Our building has been designed to Passivhaus principles, the leading international design standard for low energy sustainable buildings. With a passivhaus building instead of just insulating the walls and lofts, the insulating layer is continuous. The emphasis is on super-insulation and stringent levels of air-tightness to create minimal thermal bridging like a ‘tea-cosy effect’. The Village Hall has been sited to optimise heat and light from the sun (passive solar gain).  As a result traditional space heating requirements are minimised. To supply the building with a constant and comfortable air temperature, a demand controlled mechanical ventilation and heat-recovery system (MVHR) is used.

Water Efficient – By harvesting and recycling water from the roof for the community garden the Village Hall is saving the energy used in processing mains water.  The plastic grid used over vehicle access areas allows the grass to grow through maximising noise absorption and letting the rain soak away naturally without it having to be processed by mains drainage. To reduce water usage there are supply flow rate restrictors on the taps and flushes in the lavatories.

Material Efficient - Where possible, materials in the Village Hall are natural, recycled or reused with low embodied energy and zero ozone depletion potential.  Where plastics have been used, we have gone to extensive effort to ensure the maximum recycled content, enabling these products to be recyclable in the future. For example, the grid car parking blocks are made from 100% recycled plastic, the wood is FSC approved and the earth dug for the foundations has been reused in the landscaping. The plastic surfaces are made entirely from recycled crushed and pressed plastic bottles. You can see them on our lavatory doors! Materials have been specifically selected to minimise emissions of VOC’s (volatile organic compounds) gases that can be emitted from products such as paints, lacquers, furnishings etc. 

Within the Village Hall we provide recycling bins and encourage re-use and repair initiatives specifically:- Reduce, Reuse, Repair, Recycle.

Micro-generation - The roof has been angled towards the sun for the renewable micro-generation technologies.  As a large proportion of our energy demand is electricity, our 'Photovoltaic' (PV) cells use energy from the sun to convert solar radiation into electricity, which is used directly to run appliances and lighting with surplus electricity sold back to the National Grid to generate additional income.  The 'Solar Panels' heat the hot water for users and the heating system.  An 'Air Source Heat Pump' extracts heat from the outside air which is used to provide the heat for the under floor heating to the main hall.

Green Landscaping - For boundary segregation we have planted hedges instead of fences to provide new habitat for wildlife that can so often be displaced by development. The external infrastructure of the building incorporates bird, bat and insect boxes. We already have bats using the boxes! A wire curtain on the tallest side of the building is planted with climbing plants that provide colour throughout the year and creates a green wall to help blend the building with the landscape. The Highwood Village Hall Community Garden has been designed utilising the ideas of the local community together with expert design advice and planting support from Writtle School of Design, Chelmsford City Council, Studio Thadian Pillai and The Woodland Trust Jubilee Woods Project .

Mini Orchard of Native Essex Fruit Trees.
Acres of apple, plum and pear orchards were to be found along the A12 corridor.  However, in the last fifty years most of these have been lost to urbanisation, or replaced by more profitable arable crops. The Highwood Village Hall Committee wanted to bring back some of Essex’s native fruit trees for future generations to enjoy.  Varieties in our mini orchard have been carefully sourced to include:-

  • D’Arcy Spice a dessert apple, found at Tolleshunt D’Arcy Hall in Essex about 1785 originally sold as ‘Baddow Pippin’.

  • Chelmsford Wonder a culinary yellow apple from Chelmsford Essex c1870.

  • Johnny Mount Pear a dessert green pear from Colchester Essex pre 1900.

  • Eros a dessert flushed red apple from Boreham’s WP Seabrook Nurseries 1947.

  • Discovery a dessert apple from Langham Essex in 1949.

Anthony the Village Hall Chairman (2004-2012) dedicated each of the trees to individuals and organisations within the local and wider community to thank them for their support of the Highwood Village Hall construction project.

Highwood Residents Past & Present
(Community Christmas Tree)

Cllr. John Aldridge & Essex County Council – Johnny Mount pear tree

David Cameron & Highwood Parish Council – Chelmsford Wonder apple tree

Cllr. Nicolette Chambers & Chelmsford Borough Council – Chelmsford Wonder apple tree

Ron Lewis Highwood Village Hall Committee – D’Arcy Spice apple tree

Sue Sheppard & the RCCE – Discovery apple tree

John Kent Highwood Village Hall Committee – Johnny Mount Pear tree

Helen Hutchings & Highwood Primary School – Discovery apple tree

Martin Goddard Highwood Village Hall Committee – Eros apple tree

Steve Terry, Tim Waterman & students from Writtle School of Design – Discovery apple tree

Janet Young Highwood Village Hall Committee – Eros apple tree

Rev Michael Jones & St Paul’s Church Highwood – D’Arcy Spice apple tree

Native Wildlife Hedgerow.
According to the RSPB since World War II, hedgerows have been removed at a much faster rate than they have been planted. The loss of hedgerows has been identified as a factor in the decline of many plant and animal species traditionally associated with farmland.
To create a new wildlife hedge on the site we organised a community planting day where the children from Highwood Primary School together with volunteers from Ford Motor Company, Chelmsford City Council, Essex County Council and residents planted native wildlife hedgerow donated by The Woodland Trust, as part of the 'Jubilee Woods Project' to celebrate the Queen's Diamond Julilee.

Bee & Butterfly Wildflower Meadow.
Under the orchard we have seeded a wildflower meadow with a mix of native wildflower species and grass species. Wildflower meadows are one of the UK's most threatened habitats and in the past 70 years 97% have been lost resulting in the decline of the wildlife that depends on them. Wildflower meadows are an important habitat for many species of insect, bird and mammal.
 Whether they are used as a shelter for some animals, or as a source of food for others, they are vital in maintaining our British wildlife.

Summer Flowering Butterfly & Bee Meadow Mixture

Wildflower species

Achillea millefolium - Yarrow
Anthyllis vulneraria - Kidney Vetch
Campanula glomerata - Clustered Bellflower
Campanula trachelium - Nettle Leaved Bellflower
Centaurea nigra - Common Knapweed
Centaurea scabiosa - Greater Knapweed
Daucus carota - Wild Carrot
Echium vulgare - Viper's Bugloss
Galium verum - Lady's Bedstraw
Geranium pratense - Meadow Cranesbill
Hypericum perforatum - Common St. John's Wort
Knautia arvensis - Field Scabious
Lathyrus pratensis - Meadow Vetchling
Linaria vulgaris - Common Toadflax
Lotus corniculatus - Birdsfoot Trefoil
Lythrum salicaria - Purple Loosestrife
Origanum vulgare - Wild Marjoram
Prunella vulgaris - Self Heal
Rhinanthus minor - Yellow Rattle
Scabiosa columbaria - Small Scabious
Stachys officinalis - Betony
Stachys sylvatica - Hedge Woundwort
Succisa pratensis - Devilsbit Scabious
Trifolium pratense - Wild Red Clover
Verbascum nigrum - Dark Mullein
Vicia cracca - Tufted Vetch

Grass species

Agrostis capillaris - Common Bent
Anthoxanthum odoratum (N) - Sweet Vernal Grass
Briza media (N) - Quaking Grass
Cynosurus cristatus - Crested Dogstail
Festuca ovina - Sheep's Fescue
Festuca rubra ssp. commutata - Chewing's Fescue
Festuca rubra ssp. litoralis - Slender Creeping Red Fescue
Hordeum secalinum (N) - Meadow Barley
Poa pratensis - Smooth Stalked Meadow Grass
Trisetum flavescens - Yellow Oatgrass





Seeds from ‘Naturescape’ a UK native wildflower specialist recommended by Chelmsford Borough Council


We hope our holistic approach of combining community facilities with the green technologies and sustainable thinking will inspire visitors to replicate some of our ideas in their own lives.