bathroom, and alongside this is
a common house, with a large
room and kitchen for shared
meals, parties, meetings, and
maybe guest rooms, workshop,
and managed by the residents, with the site freehold held in common ownership.
and informal community: a co- housing cluster is usually 10-30 dwellings, and cars are kept to the edge of the site.
independence, have their own front door, but combine this with mutual support and a sense of neighbour- hood. Cohousing is a brilliantly
communities, which require a more communal approach than most of us want.
emissions (e.g. 60%) yet the UK and others struggle to achieve even minor cuts. Housing and related issues like travel and food represent a large slice of our fossil fuel use.
heating, insulation and so on are now readily available. The big challenge is that so much of our carbon footprint comes from lifestyle energy uses. As
only take us so far in cutting energy use. This is why innovations like cohousing, which can reduce lifestyle energy use dramatically, are so important.
Common sense tells us that we can live more affordably and sustainably by sharing resources between house- holds: car-pooling, food growing,
planet. What would it look like? Low environmental impact of course, but what about human needs? Many of us want some sense of neighbour-
Cohousing is a form of housing
provision which can enable all this.
It’s little known in the UK, but well
Whereas communes and bender
settlements may be low impact but
only suit the dedicated few, co-
housing is a form of sustainable living with much wider appeal. In Denmark, where it started, 5% of all households are in cohousing communities.
dwellings with shared facilities:
every home has its own living
and sleeping space, kitchen and
life onsite. At the Threshold Centre, the pilot cohousing project where I live in Dorset, we have audited
Some of the technologies are also better shared: for example, biomass heating systems, which work ideally for a whole group of households plus daytime uses like work spaces and
social areas. Shared food production on site is another common feature of cohousing: it’s more fun to grow
more affordable. Sharing transport, childcare, food purchasing and pro- duction also help reduce living costs. Most cohousing groups have some units available for affordable rent.
departments to cohousing seems to
be quite varied. Some at least see the
benefits of this approach, and believe
holds. The Housing Corporation
endorse this, and have given grant
support to researching cohousing,
and at least one cohousing group.
with each other to create the project means that groups are already formed as communities before they move in. A commitment to some level of
including affordable rental, will be asked to commit to. And the level of social and working contact means that people naturally help each other out and the sense of neighbour-
for children, and the first cohousing project in the UK, the Community Project in Sussex, shows how well this works. Much of the recent
in this age group want a way of living which combines independence with a sense of neighbourhood, and also
with young kids or older people, who want their work, social and home life as close together as possible.
and setting. Because the residents
lead it, each development is shaped
for the people who live there. And
this means it is much more likely to
work with the special features of a
site than ordinary developers, who
Sussex is a conversion of a redundant rural mental hospital. One project in Denmark is a creative re-use of an old factory, where the main factory building
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