Le Hameau des Buis

marker Country


marker Website

marker Number of Inhabitants


marker Date of Creation


Le Hameau des Buis is an ecovillage located in South-East of France, in Ardèche, on a plateau overhanging the Chassezac gorges and close to the mysterious Païolive forest, which makes it a true paradise of nature.
Le Hameau covers an area of ​​6 hectares including:
  • a residential area with around twenty apartments, from studios to 3-bedrooms apartments, built in with bioclimatic methods and based on local and ecological materials
  • a "Mas", a traditional regional farmhouse, completely renovated
  • a democratic school that can accommodate up to 80 children, from kindergarten to college, located in the farmhouse and in various contemporary yurts built around the farmhouse
  • areas of agricultural activity (market gardening, goat farm and cheese dairy) and artisanal (bakery)


To understand the current functioning of this community, a quick review of the history of the ecovillage is necessary.
The creation of the Hameau des Buis started in 2001, with the organization of first meetings between people interested in Sophie Rabhi's project: this project, which consists in setting up a place associating residences for retired people, an alternative school and a production farm, should allow intergenerational exchanges between children and the elderly. In return for occupying their homes, retired people are asked to financially participate in the operation of the school, as this private school cannot receive state aid to contribute to its budget.
The purchase of the land, via a civil society, was made in 2004 and community volunteering projects began in 2006 with the establishment of an orchard, the renovation of the farmhouse and, once the building permit was obtained, the construction of the residential buildings. which were then no longer reserved for retirees but open to everyone: in 2011, the first inhabitants moved into the buildings constructed collectively.
Since 2012, disagreements within the collective have appeared and increased: in 2018, the conflict broke out in the community. The school suffered the most visible consequences and had to close for several weeks: a large part of the teaching staff left the project and many families took their children out of school. Several facilitations have been then organized to try to resolve the causes of the conflict but without success: several legal actions have been initiated and the school has recently been ordered to leave the premises.

During my stay, I have met caring and very welcoming people: I wish this project to find the most beneficial outcome for all its actors and I hope that the next years of this collective will be full of great projects!

Entrance Hameau Buis
Entrance of Hameau des Buis

Protection of cycles of water

Like many ecovillages, the Hameau des Buis only has composting toilets, which significantly reduce the water consumption of the inhabitants.
Grey water from showers, kitchen and other household needs (laundry, dishes, etc.) is directed to a succession of 4 phyto-purification basins: the first two basins containing only aquatic reeds receive the incoming wastewater and enable a first treatment. Two other basins containing many species of aquatic plants (bamboo, lotus, water chestnuts, lemongrass, sedges...) finish the water treatment, which is regularly checked.
The rainwater that falls on the roofs is also collected via collectors provided for this purpose: the treated water from phyto-purification and the collected rainwater is stored in tanks so that it can be used by the inhabitants for watering plants. This water can also be pumped to a basin to be used for watering the vegetable garden.

Rainfall in Ardèche is rare but violent (the famous Cevennes episodes): the quantities of water that fall are therefore occasional but significant, which requires a large storage capacity for rainwater. The installed tanks are currently not sufficient to store all the water that falls over short periods, some of the rainwater is therefore lost: the purchase of larger tanks is currently investigated but requires a significant investment.

Phyto purification
The phyto-purification enables the treatment of wastewater before its use in the gardens

Use of energy from renewable sources

The buildings are not equipped with photovoltaic solar panels, the investment to be planned for their installation during the construction of the buildings being too high.
On the other hand, the buildings are equipped with thermal solar panels supplying domestic hot water to the various dwellings. The washing machines, shared in collective laundries, are equipped with a double water inlets, hot water and cold water, which allows to use the water heated by the panels for washing clothes.

Food production from organic agriculture

The Hameau des Buis is home to two agricultural production activities on site:
  • market gardening: a plot of half a hectare, formerly cultivated in viticulture, has been transformed into an orchard planted with around fifty fruit trees, in the middle of which vegetables grow. It allows the production of organic and environmentally friendly vegetables based on the technique of no till gardening. A greenhouse allows the sowing (sowing on hot beds is implemented, this technique consisting in providing an optimum environment for carrying out early sowing thanks to the heat resulting from the fermentation of fresh manure) and the production of vegetables requiring the most heat (tomatoes, peppers, eggplants ...). As indicated above, a 450 m3 water storage basin was installed near the vegetable farm: rainwater and grey water after phyto-purification are collected and stored there, then used in the garden with drip irrigation.
  • a goat house containing 17 currently lactating goats allows a daily production of around 30 litres of milk. The milk is then processed in a dairy in the hamlet to make picodons, fresh cheeses typical of the region, fromage blanc and fresh goat cheeses with herbs or spices. The goat manure is used to amend the soil in the vegetable garden.

Two people currently carry out these two activities and thus allow the hamlet to supply itself locally with vegetables and dairy products.

No till gardening
No till gardening
Basin to store water
Goat farm
Hamlet goat farm
Milking room
Milking room

Construction of sustainable buildings

When designing the hamlet, the inhabitants had the following objectives:
  • not to cut any trees present on site
  • to have a relatively dense habitat, in order to promote relationships between the inhabitants
  • to have bioclimatic houses (i.e. making the most of local conditions and the environment): in this region of Ardèche, summer is very arid but winter is very harsh. It was therefore important to have houses that kept the heat in the winter but also remained cool in the summer.

The buildings are made from bio-based materials requiring limited energy consumption: local wood, clay and straw.
This choice of materials was ambitious for the time, the straw constructions were not yet approved in France: significant constraints had to be lifted and the works have needed long time to be completed, nearly 4 years to see the first inhabitants.

All the accommodations are in 3 different buildings, all facing south. The presence of trees plays an important role in summer, as their shades help to keep houses cool. In winter, the trees are deciduous: the trees no longer block the passage of the sun's rays to the houses, which are then warmed up. In addition, the inclination of the roofs is 15°, which corresponds to the inclination of the sun at the winter solstice: the sun's rays can therefore enter homes through the bay windows arranged to the south and penetrate as far as the background of houses, reducing darkness in houses in the middle of winter.

A system of heat-capturing walls has been developed: these walls are made of stones in front of which double glazing has been installed. During winter days, the sun's rays reach these sensor walls and, passing through the glass walls, are transformed into infrared rays whose energy is stored by the stones. The double-glazing system creates a greenhouse effect that traps heat: the walls thus store the sun's energy during the day to return it slowly to the buildings during the night, reducing heating needs.

The buildings have green roofs: they are covered with 16 cms of substrate (mixture of earth and pozzolana) in which some sedums, succulents that are abundantly found in the region, have been planted.

Houses with collector walls
Dense housing
Residential buildings
Vegetated roofs
Vegetated roofs

Support of personal growth

The school La Ferme des Enfants

The school La Ferme des Enfants is developing an alternative pedagogy to better meet the children and teenagers' needs and has thus joined the movement of democratic schools.
It is an alternative to the learning model which is normally practiced in public schools, where children must follow a defined program, are subject to objectives and where their performance are evaluated and compared with other children.

In order to better respect their natural development, children and adolescents are placed in an environment rich in discoveries, so that their curiosities can be activated and that they learn on their own what is really necessary for them in their daily lives.
The school environment is made to enable this curiosity to be fufilled: the ecovillage, the farm and its animals, production activities (cheese dairy, bakery, vegetable garden ...), the surrounding nature are many places where children can evolve. Many workshops are also offered during the year: to perform these workshops, the school has a library, several yurts with different functions, a kitchen, a classroom, a wood workshop, ...

The pupils, who are qualified as citizens in the school, are considered as full persons: there is no discrimination related to age, called as ageism.
Children and teachers and supervisors form a full community: everyone can take on roles and responsibilities (set up a workshop or make a proposal for change, for example), and all members must respect the community rules. For example, kindness between members must be respected by all: non-violent communication techniques are implemented in the school. In the event of conflicts between several members, a mediation can for example be set up and each member taking part in the conflict has the obligation to participate in the mediation.
These techniques allow children to learn about collective life, to feel co-responsible for its functioning and to put into practice tools specific to community life.

The supervisory team is made up of educators and volunteers, who are there with the children all year round to accompany them and provide them with workshops throughout the day.

As the school does not receive state aid to participate in its operation, its financial needs are covered by the tuition fees paid by the families of the children attending school, revenues made during special events (open days for example) and donations.

Reconnection with nature

Le Hameau des Buis is located close to the Monts d'Ardèche natural park, on the edge of the cliffs and overlooks the Chassezac valley: this environment spontaneously calls for a deep reconnection with nature, where everyone feels like forming part of a coherent natural ecosystem.
The on-site presence of market gardening and dairy activities also helps to anchor human activities in seasonality: the arrival of summer vegetables or the birth of kids are important events in the ecovillage.

Goats Chassezac
The ecovillage is located in a true natural environment

Guarantee of equitable ownership of land and resources

The fair distribution of land and building ownership is an essential subject for any ecovillage.
The legal and financial arrangement chosen to carry this project was the Civil Society. Initially, the Civil Society Le Hameau des Buis was made to purchase the land and the farmhouse to be renovated. In its initial form, the civil society was constituted in such a way that all future residents and the Ferme des Enfants association, an non-profit association carrying the alternative school project, are shareholders of the civil society.
In 2006, for financial reasons, the choice was made to build housing via participatory projects: it is legally not possible to have volunteers on a project in which the majority of shareholders have private interests, the future residents of the ecovillage had to withdraw from the shareholding of the civil society: they exchanged their shares in the civil society with debts of equivalent amounts. They were then only linked to the civil society by two contracts:
  • a loan contract, for the loan made for the benefit of the civil society for the construction of buildings. To become inhabitant of the ecovillage, each resident must therefore lend a sum of money to the civil society during the entire time they live there. This amount is between € 80,800 and € 164,100 depending on the size of the accommodation, and is re-evaluated each year taking into account the national rent index, a legal index set by the State to revise rents, which limits real estate speculation. When an inhabitant wishes to leave the project, the civil society has 1 year to find new fundings (via new comers), to repay the loan of the person leaving the collective. It should also be noted that an entry fee of € 5,000, non-refundable, is also requested from each new entrant.
  • a lease contract, for the occupancy of the accommodation (this lease makes it possible to pay the current charges for the accommodation and to participate in the costs of the school). This amount is between 323 € for a studio and 654 € for a 4-rooms apartment.

Support of local economies

Every Tuesday and Friday, a farmers' market is organized in the ecovillage: residents and neighbours can come and get the products they need (bread, vegetables, cheese, etc.).

Creation of alternative banking and exchange systems

All businesses and producers of the ecovillage accept the complementary local currency which circulates in Ardèche, the Luciole.

Responsible production, consumption and trade

The community has set up what they call the Epigloo, a name derived from the contraction of the words grocery store (Epicerie in French) and paligloo, a type of cheap building made from pallets, clay and straw (for more information on the paligloo, click here ).
In the Epigloo, the inhabitants of the hamlet, in exchange for an annual subscription, can find all the basic necessities they need (oil, flour, jams, honey, household products, drinks, etc.). The products are, mainly, from local production chains.

Every afternoon, the Buistro du Hameau opens its doors: everyone can sit on the tables arranged in front of the caravan which serves as a kitchen. Pastries and various drinks are served here.

A bakehouse has also been set up, where several bakers take turns producing sourdough bread, which is then distributed to residents at the market or at other points of sale around the ecovillage.

Grocery Epigloo
The Epigloo
The Buistro
The bakery

Respect of diversity and development of a community vision

Development of a community vision

Ensuring that a common vision is shared by all members of the collective is essential for the well-being of an intentional community, such as an ecovillage. To do this, inclusion processes are often put in place in ecovillages to better know the newcomers and to be sure that they share the vision of members already in the place.

My feeling is that two different common visions exist at the Hameau des Buis. Indeed :
  • the inhabitants of the ecovillage seem to be looking for an ecological place to live, allowing sharings between the generations, and including an alternative school project on site
  • the founding members intend to implement an intergenerational place of life built and living around an alternative school.

The difference between the 2 visions may seem minimal and yet the role of the school in the project is, in my opinion, one of the main origins of the existing disagreements between the members of the village: some have as their main objective the establishment of an alternative school, when others need to implement a place of life. However, there is no doubt that all the members of the collective want an authentic, harmonious and kindness place.

It seems that this difference between the 2 visions probably comes from the fact that, at the beginning of the project, there was no real inclusion process: the needs of people wishing to integrate the project were not precisely explored and the compatibility of these needs with the common intention of the ecovillage was not studied.
An inclusion process is now in place: members wishing to join the Hameau are now invited to live with the collective for a few weeks: this allows everyone to discover themselves and to know if the newcomer has the same objectives than the community intentions.

It should also be noted that, in order to strengthen the cohesion of the group, community volunteering projects are also organized once a week: the members of the collective meet (often Thursday mornings) to carry out various maintenance tasks of the village: the can help with market gardening, work on the phyto-purification, cut firewood, maintain the green roofs...

Respect of diversity

As we saw in the Economic part of the project, joining the collective implies making a significant financial investment, which makes it difficult for the group to welcome low-income people. In order to overcome this problem, less heavy and cheaper accommodation solutions are gradually being implemented in the ecovillage, which allows the reception of more varied profiles of inhabitants: a light ecovillage project, made up of temporary and lighter houses, is currently under study.

Guarantee of participatory leadership and shared governance

The inhabitants of the village, when the project was entirely handed over to the association in 2008 (see the Economy section for more information), became lenders and tenants, thus losing the financial shares they had in the project. At the same time, they legally lost direct access to the project governance, the association La Ferme des Enfants then being the main shareholder of the civil society. In order to represent the interests of the inhabitants in the project, an association for the Hameau des Buis' inhabitants was created in 2009, this association being exclusively reserved for the inhabitants of the place. The association La Ferme des Enfants then sold a share out of the 520 it was owning to this new association.

In 2014, to allow better access to governance for the village's inhabitants, the management board of the Civil Society became a larger college: a group of inhabitants has then been responsible for the missions related to the civil society.
In 2017, discussions on a better distribution of the shares of the civil society between the inhabitants association and the Ferme des Enfants association took place: these discussions failed and resulted in 2018 in a complete change in the shareholding of civil society, allowing the inhabitants' association to take over the governance of civil society, at the expense of the Ferme des Enfants association.

We can clearly see here that, since the creation of civil society, the issue of shareholder distribution and therefore access to governance has been central: certain members of the collective have thus felt dispossessed of their decision-making power. during the change in the shareholding of the civil society, while they had largely invested in the project, in terms of time and money.
Several questions, central when creating an ecovillage, must therefore be asked when creating a collective and be re-examined, if necessary, throughout the life of the collective:
  • The question of ownership: Who owns what? What are the legal and financial structures making it possible to best meet the needs of the collective and its members?
  • The question of governance: Who can make the decisions, on what topics and how? Is this distribution of governance fair and really suitable for everyone?
  • The question of investment: How to quantify the investment in a collective project? Is it just a financial investment? Or also an investment in terms of time? How to quantify this time spent in the implementation of the collective project?

The inhabitants' association

The inhabitants' association was set up in order to bring together the interests of the collective. The role of this association is to manage the daily life of the collective and to initiate the changes necessary for its development.
Several commissions have been created and take decisions on their areas of competence:
  • Practical life, which manages all the daily needs
  • Precious Human Factor, in charge of taking care of human relations between the members of the collective
  • Transition, which defines the long-term needs of the community to move forward in its transition
  • External relations (with partners, administrations, ...)
  • Administration, for the management of administrative tasks

Making-decision processes

The Hameau des Buis first set up participatory governance inspired by Sociocracy. After having faced regular blockages with this method, a new system has been put in place: everyone has the opportunity to express themselves and a final vote is organized, relying on the largest majority (depending on the subjects , 2/3 or 3/4 of voters).

Use of communication skills, conflict facilitation

Several members of the collective were trained in non-violent communication and group mediation techniques.
Tools have also been put in place within the collective to allow more honest and respectful communication.

During the weekly meetings which bring together all the ecovillage's inhabitants, several communication techniques are applied: all the members sit in a circle and a first round (clockwise) is done in which each member can indicate the emotional state in which he is currently.
The meeting is then organized according to the topics of the day: one of the members, playing the role of moderator and responsible for the respect of the time allotted for the meeting, lists all the topics that the members want to discuss: these topics can be concrete and factual information ("I will be on vacation for the next two weeks and make my house available to your visitors if necessary" or "I have received an email informing me about the annual meeting of this association") or topics which brings a debate between the members ("we had a meeting with the town hall, this is what was said and what is expected from us: what should we now respond?"). The moderator will then give the floor to each member who wishes to speak. Discussions between members are very transparent and are sometimes very direct.
At the end of the meeting, a new round is organized, this one being counterclockwise: everyone can thus express their emotional state one last time, and see their evolution once the meeting is over.

Interested to visit Le Hameau des buis? Several options are available to you!
  • if you are in the region for holidays, you can come in the village every Tuesday and Friday, between 4 p.m. and 6 p.m.: a producers' market is held! You will have the opportunity to feel the community's atmosphere, buy local products and drink a lemonade at the Buistro, the ecovillage's bistro. Every Friday, a guided tour from 4.30 p.m. to 5.30 p.m. is also organized: you can visit the village with one of its inhabitant and discover its main characteristics. Visits are only organized during summer, check the dates of visits on the website (here ) or on the Facebook page (here ).
  • if you have more time to spend, open days are organized once a month. From 10:30 am to 6:00 pm, you will discover the community and its surroundings in more detail (market gardening and goat farm in particular), will be able to discuss with the inhabitants and share lunch with them. To consult the dates of the open days and to register, consult the website .
  • you also have the possibility of coming to Hameau des Buis as a wwoofer: in exchange for 5 hours of daily work (5 days a week), you will be fed and housed by the community and will have the opportunity to share the life of the inhabitants! Two positions are available: a position in the market gardening and a position as a goat keeper (you will walk the goats every morning, as soon as the milking is finished). The two person in charge of the market gardening and dairy activities are very nice, I highly recommend this experience! For more information, you can directly consult the WWOOF France page here .
  • the collective is quite flexible and will most likely, depending on your needs, find an option that suits everyone: you can contact them at benevolat@hameaudesbuis.org.