The sharing economy comes home in Cohousing

© Henley Halebrown Rorrison

Copper Lane, a cohousing project in London, shows how design by committee doesn't have to look like a camel.

Everyone talks about the sharing economy, but not that many talk about cohousing, which is a shame because it is a great example of people working together, to consciously commit to living as a community. Guardian architectural critic Rowan Moore reviews a new London cohousing project, Copper Lane, and describes how it might have been a script for a reality show from hell, "a fusion of Big Brother, Changing Rooms and, for the bravado with which those involved seem to have taken on a possibly impossible task, The Apprentice."

Meaghan noted in an earlier TreeHugger post how cohousing works:

In some ways, they hark back to the ideas of a kibbutz, a co-op, or commune, but in a more modern, Euro-style, not-so-hippy way. In co-housing, people keep private dwellings with a kitchen, living and dining rooms, and other personal spaces, but they share many common facilities. For example, shared facilities might include a bigger dining room that can accommodate large numbers of guests, communal kitchens, lounge areas, meeting rooms, recreation facilities, a library, and workshops.

They are not always the most interesting buildings architecturally. It takes a particular kind of architect, with infinite patience and tact, to deal with what is essentially a design by committee. Henley Halebrown Rorrison have managed to make Copper Lane very interesting indeed, and have built it to Passivhaus standards.

The project is set in a "backland" in the middle of a block of victorian townhouses. Six units are clustered around a communal hall, workshop and laundry, activities that might be found in any condominium project. The participants agreed to have pretty standard homes with private kitchens and dining areas, rather than share these; the real difference between this project and a conventional build is that the owners are the developers, they decide what they want and how they want to live, what is shared and what is not. The decision making starts at the drawing board with a strong environmental commitment; according to the architect (in PDF here)

The philosophy is to reduce the household’s collective impact on the environment in the construction of their homes and in their daily lives. The performance of the building fabric - insulation, air tightness, and heat recovery ventilation - plays a vital role not expensive and unproven technology. The only renewables are solar thermal panels. The embodied energy of construction has been considered in every respect: recycling waste material from the demolition; timber superstructure; timber cladding; timber fenestration & partial green roofs.

Cohousing is really demanding on the participants. As Giovanna Mabanta, one of the founders, told Moore: If we can survive the building of it," says Mabanta, "we can have a peaceful, harmonious life. It's an example for everyone."

More in the Guardian.

The sharing economy comes home in Cohousing
Copper Lane, a cohousing project in London, shows how design by committee doesn't have to look like a camel.

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