Key learnings from the National Forest’s new design guide for sustainable tourist accommodation.
Sustainability is made up of a complex and diverse set of issues, but the National Forest Company, in consultation with architects Arboreal and glamping consultants Crown & Canopy, has identified seven design principles to help create exemplar sustainable tourist accommodation.
The design guide is a call to action to landowners, developers, operators and investors to join the National Forest – 200 square miles of newly planted woodlands, farmland and ancient forests across central England – in creating a new wave of sustainable tourism accommodation.
Here we outline the main learnings from the guide, which can be applied to the wider glamping industry to create developments that sit harmoniously with their landscape, community and guests, as well as contributing to countering the climate crisis.
The design guide advises readers to see these ideas as a ‘menu of options’ to be used according to the needs of a project and in line with ambition and budget. The principles are scalable and have been developed to complement other technical sustainability standards including BREEAM and the Living Building Challenge.
Download the guide at www.nationalforest.org for comprehensive explanations and examples of each of the principles. Below is a summary and food for thought.
1. Develop in harmony with the forest character
• Design to enhance forest character
• Site buildings sensitively
• Engage with local history and vernacular design
• Bring nature into interior designs
2. Design for Health and Wellbeing
• Encourage active lifestyles
• Support mental wellbeing
• Encourage a connection with others
• Strengthen connections with the forest
• Ensure comfort for everyone
• Make the forest accessible
3. Support the forest community and economy
• Create connections with your neighbours
• Become part of a tourism network
• Tell the National Forest story
• Inspire guests through sustainable design
• Host forest activity groups
4. Build ethically and sustainably
• Use low carbon construction
• Use natural materials
• Source materials responsibly
• Reuse and reclaim existing materials
• Assess your project’s life cycle
• Design for disassembly and longevity
• Reduce construction waste
• Invest in professional support
5. Promote carbon emission free holidays
• Lower the energy use of your buildings
• Thermal retrofit
• Use or generate your own renewable electricity
• Minimise carbon emissions for secondary space heating
• Buy low carbon products
• Encourage low carbon transport
6. Integrate with nature
• Understand your local environment
• Promote space for nature
• Plant more trees
• Build for wildlife
7. Manage water wisely
• Use mains water sparingly
• Change water use habits
• Use rainwater for irrigation
• Consider on-site wastewater treatment
• Manage foul water sustainably
• Manage rainwater equitably and sustainably
Larkhill Tipis and Yurts, Ceredigion
Having lived off-grid for over 25 years, the owners of Larkhill Tipis and Yurts take sustainability seriously. Harnessing wind, water and solar power to generate electricity, they promote low carbon holidays in their colourful yurts and tipis.
The site is completely organic. All cleaning products are ethically sourced and eco-friendly (as are the complimentary guest toiletries). No fertilisers (other than homemade compost) or insecticides are used on the land. There are compost toilets as well as flushable ones with a reed bed system used to naturally filter foul water from the septic tank. And with all food waste turned into compost to grow vegetables, recycling is made easy.
The site is nestled beautifully within the forest and wildlife is well looked after. From woodland and hedgerow planting to pond creation and leaving deadwood, there’s plenty of space for nature to flourish and a flock of rare breed sheep help to manage the land.
Prices from £80-£85 per night for a yurt for four. www.larkhilltipisandyurts.co.uk
Stargazers Wagon, Herefordshire
Renovated from its early circus days into a luxurious living space, Stargazers Wagon is an excellent example of a repurposed structure. The whole site (including two timber cabins and the owner’s cottage) is entirely off-grid, and the wagon is inherently low impact and well insulated which reduces energy use.
The 27-foot wagon sits within a five-acre ancient wildflower meadow. It’s grazed just once a year to enhance biodiversity and the rest of the site is kept wild to provide plenty of space for nature.
Native tree planting and hedgerow management creates habitat for small mammals and birds. Fruit trees provide food sources for birds as well as humans, and the log piles dotted around are great for reptiles and mammals.
Solar energy powers the low wattage LED lights indoors. To minimise the impact on bats and other wildlife, and enhance the dark sky experience for guests, there’s no outdoor lighting.
The experience of the trailer extends outside with rustic timber decking, seating and hot tub offering long views of the open countryside. The minimal interior is true to the nature of trailer living, offering a back-to-basics appeal for visitors.
Prices from £98-£165 per night. www.herefordshirehideaways.co.uk
Forest Holidays, UK wide
Forest Holidays offers cabin holidays in 11 locations across the UK. For 45 years it has worked in partnership with Forestry England, Forestry and Land Scotland, and Natural Resources Wales to provide authentic experiences in British forests.
Nature is central to its business ethos. Forest Holidays’ revenue helps sustain the forests and its Conservation Fund supports around 30 UK wide conservation projects. It’s committed to improving the biodiversity of sites and carries out extensive monitoring and enhancement programmes with its forest rangers and local Wildlife Trusts. On-location education programmes led by trained forest rangers encourage guests of all ages to learn about the forest and wildlife around them.
Wellbeing is also a key part of the experience. It’s the only holiday company in the UK with team members trained in the ancient Japanese art of shinrin-yoku or forest bathing.
The timber built cabins use pile foundations to nestle into the forest environment in a low impact manner, while spacious outdoor decking and large window panels integrate the outdoor and indoor spaces.
Forest Holidays is the first self-catering holiday company of its type to have a bespoke BREEAM scheme with BRE. Cabins are built with health and wellbeing in mind, with plenty of natural light and space, and everything is done to minimise impact on the forest and the wider environment.
From £183 per night for a cabin for two people. www.forestholidays.co.uk
About the National Forest
In less than 30 years, the National Forest has transformed a declining industrial Midlands landscape into a vibrant destination, driven by the simple belief that life is better with trees. It has created a visitor economy throughout its 200 square miles that grows and sustains local employment, uses local and sustainable products and services and provides facilities to enhance the wellbeing of communities as well as visitors. The aspiration is to go further, for the National Forest to be a land-mark sustainable tourism destination, responsive to the urgency of climate change.