Cohousing: The real sharing economy at its best, and a great example in Berlin

R50 exterior angled
© Andrew Alberts via Archdaily

Some have called AirBnB sharing, but it's really renting. The real sharing economy comes to housing in the cohousing model, described by TreeHugger Meaghan as "a type of collaborative in which people eschew the alienation of typical subdivisions in favor of true community lifestyles. 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."

Usually the phrase "designed by committee" is an insult, but that's what cohousing usually is, a design that evolves from the needs of the people who gather together to build it. In Berlin-Kreuzberg, a new cohousing project has been designed by ifau , Jesko Fezer and HEIDE & VON BECKERATH and shown in ArchDaily that is really interesting, and could serve as a model for affordable housing anywhere.

For one thing, this is a study in simple, minimalist construction, with occupants getting bare concrete floors and ceilings. The exterior walls of wood look nice, but not a whole lot of money has been spent on granite countertops and other amenities.

On the exterior, there is a continuous galvanized balcony and the handrail guard is actually chain link fence, perhaps the cheapest material available. But it looks great. It doesn't look particularly energy efficient with that concrete frame, but evidently it is:

R50 – cohousing is a new model typology for low-cost and affordable housing offering a maximum capacity for adaptation and flexibility throughout its lifetime. Social, cultural, economic and ecological aspects have been considered equally to define a contemporary sustainable approach to urban living. The limit set by German Energy Saving Regulations (EnEV 2009) was reduced by 30%. Another essential aspect of sustainability is the building’s particular ability to integrate into the existing urban fabric.

Cohousing is a wonderful model for ownership that lets people get together to build what they need and want, not what a developer decides to sell. It depends on cooperation and sharing. It also requires patience; they can be tough to put together and consensus takes time. But it makes so much sense for young people with families, who can share child care responsibilities, and for older boomers downsizing and looking down the road a bit. We should be building a lot more of it.

Lots more images at Archdaily.

Cohousing: The real sharing economy at its best, and a great example in Berlin
This is a housing form that we should be building a lot more of.

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