All Together Now: Green Modern Cooperative Living in Australia


Images from Sanctuary Magazine, Rachel Pilgrim & Andrew Lecky

So many of the green houses we see are single family, alone in the country, but there are more and more developers and builders trying to build green communities. On Munro court in the mining town of Castlemaine, outside of Victoria, Australia, eight lovely little modern houses have been designed by Robyn Gibson of Lifehouse design. None are over 1500 square feet, and it is sort of a cooperative, sharing responsibility for the communal vegetable gardens, emptying the compost and feeding the "chooks" [sic]


Fiona Negrin describes it in the always inspiring Sanctuary Magazine:

The development was initiated by a local couple, Sue Turner and Don Wild, whose vision was to build a cluster of energy-efficient modern houses that harmonised with the landscape. Social sustainability would be a key criterion, as would the potential for elderly people to downsize in comfort and age in place.


Although the houses are placed quite close to each other, they don't have boundary fences, so strategic design was employed to instil a sense of seclusion. "All living areas face onto the sleeping and bathing areas of the neighbouring house, so nobody's living areas look into any others," says Robyn. "Additionally, there are screens, earth mounds and plantings between houses to provide privacy."


It is a mix of young families, couples and retirees, and they are not all into green living; One of the retirees describes it:

"I walked into this room and I just thought, it's so beautiful, so full of light. And the finishes, the colours, so much thought has gone into details and the fittings....A small space can be well used. There's tons of storage. Big windows and high ceilings give a sense of spaciousness. It's a small house but it feels like a big house because it has the right proportions."

All of the houses have lots of insulation, concrete slab floors to hold heat and big north windows for solar gain in winter; in summer, there are awnings and pergolas to shade them. Different houses have different systems; some have photovoltaics, one has grey water recycling, all have big water storage tanks.

It is a wonderful concept; not hyper-organized like co-housing, not really a co-op, but market housing sold to people who buy into the cooperative lifestyle. Lovely to look at, too. More in Sanctuary Magazine

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