Cohousing is a method of living that has become established in several countries around the world. Created and run by residents, cohousing developments are communities where people not only know their neighbours but actively manage their neighbourhood alongside them.
Small enough that everyone can be familiar with each other, but large enough not to force them to be, cohousing communities are built around a shared desire for a sense of belonging, neighbourliness and mutual support that many people feel is missing from modern life and contemporary housing developments.
In cohousing communities, just as in conventional neighbourhoods, residents own or rent their own private homes. But everyone also benefits from extra shared facilities and spaces that allow members to do things together. Shared outdoor spaces provide opportunities to grow food, play and be close to nature, and a shared Common House provides additional indoor space for residents to meet, eat and socialise together. Car parking tends to be kept to a minimum and located at the periphery, allowing the central spaces close to homes to be used for other things.
Living in a cohousing community brings a few extra responsibilities – residents are encouraged to be actively involved in running the place – but many more benefits. This way of living is part of mainstream housing development in many European countries and has a growing presence in the US. In the UK there are several completed purpose-built cohousing schemes – and many more in the planning or delivery stages.
The UK Cohousing Network is the principal resource for cohousing groups in the UK and its website lists dozens of active cohousing groups across the country. While many are open to all and actively seek a generational mix, some may be exclusively for older people. Some are new build; others conversions of existing property. All cohousing projects tend to have a strong focus on engendering more sustainable ways of living.
TOWN’s job is to plan, design and deliver a 42-home cohousing scheme for CCL’s membership, which comprises a wide mix of households including couples with young children and older people downsizing. Located in Orchard Park, on the northern edge of Cambridge, the scheme is attracting both local people and others moving from much further afield.
A detailed planning application for the scheme was submitted at the end of 2015, which was the result of many months collaboration between TOWNhus, Mole Architects and CCL. TOWN worked closely with members on every aspect of the scheme, including the masterplan, design of the dwellings, energy strategy and landscape plan.
The local planning authority, South Cambridgeshire District Council, is interested in the scheme not least because it is one of 11 custom build vanguard authorities selected by the government to pioneer this sort of development. Planning permission is anticipated in April 2016.
The K1 scheme comprises a series of terraces together with a purpose-build apartment block, laid out around a large central shared garden. The centrally-located Common House will provide a large dining area, catering kitchen, laundry and a range of ancillary spaces and facilities for the group to use.
Homes range from 47 m2 one-bedroom flats to 128 m2 five-bedroom houses. TOWN’s custom build system has allowed residents to select their basic house type and configure the interior from a menu of floorplan options, allowing a high degree of customisation and a wide variety of dwelling sizes from a single system. Residents also have the opportunity to choose their external brickwork from a pre-selected palette of bricks.
Built with Trivselhus’s Climate Shield system, a closed-panel timber construction system manufactured in Sweden, the scheme will offer residents very low running costs and close-to-Passivhaus energy performance standards.
With construction expected to commence later in 2016, K1 residents hope to be moving in in 2017.
This article was written by TOWN, March 2016
 Related articles on Designing Buildings Wiki
- Affordable housing.
- Community energy network.
- Ecobuild 2016 - What makes good housing?
- Ecobuild 2016 - What makes housing fit for the future?
- Edge Debate 71 - Can decentralisation solve the housing crisis?
- Garden cities.
- Hex House project.
- Housing associations.
- New model for Britain's high streets.
- Private rented sector.
- Public space.
- Shared equity / Partnership mortgage.
- Shared ownership.
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- The compact sustainable city.
- Urban design.
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