Finishing touches to dwelling design

One of the rewards for taking on the early, pioneering work to establish a cohousing community is that you get the opportunity to make an input to the design of your own home.  We have reached the stage where individual households are, with the help of a PTEa architect, personalising their future environments within reasonable limits.   Do I want this wall there?  Can I have a shower rather than a bath tub?   How is the cat going to get in and out through a thick Passivhaus wall?

Cohousing Woodside at PTEa design consultation

Getting to grips with these practical issues gives a comforting sense of ‘getting there’ at last, even though move-in is some time away still. When we have these things settled, we will move on to common areas of interest like ‘how will we make the most of the common house?’ or  ‘what do we all understand by neighbourliness and how do we envisage its day-to-day expression?’

Once the design practicalities are settled, the legal agreements signed, the real work of cohousing begins – building ourselves into a cohesive, friendly, supportive group that maintains a satisfactory balance between personal self-sufficiency and communal activities. Our group is steadily growing and individual members are gradually identifying areas of work where they may contribute their skills and experience.   In the process, we are slowly getting to know each other better, which is the point of cohousing.

Older people staying in charge of their lives – Maria Brenton

I recently gave a presentation on this topic to a large audience of University of the Third Age members in Barnet. The North London U3A is a fast-growing group with some 1200 members and I look forward to joining them when I eventually move to North London. My theme drew on a longstanding interest in old age and ageing and a fierce determination to do what I can to challenge and change that spectrum of attitudes which ranges from well-meant paternalism to outright ageism in British society.   Naturally, I offered as a powerful solution for some the example of cohousing – whether the family-based, so-called ‘inter-generational’model or senior cohousing, which is also pretty inter-generational if you think about it.

A frequent refrain in my researches on Dutch senior cohousing – and one echoed by my audience in Barnet – was ‘I don’t want to grow old in the way my parents did, where they had no choices and decisions were made for them’.

Planning ahead for ageing makes a lot of sense – but not very many people seem to realise this.  Being very comfortable where you are is great, if you can see yourself managing equally happily there ten to twenty years on.  I get the feeling from many people that their heads are firmly in the sand in relation to the latter consideration. The Danes have a saying ‘Make your choices before they are made for you’.  This is wise and, although it may be a wrench now to tear yourself away from the non-age-proofed house you are living in, you may live to congratulate yourself on being so far-sighted as to move to a setting where your environment is not only built to Lifetime Homes standard (as Cohousing Woodside will be) but where you will enjoy the helpful neighbourliness you yourself have participated in building.

St Luke’s shortlisted for Housing Design Awards 2014

Our architects, Pollard Thomas Edwards’projected design for the  St Luke’s site was recently shortlisted for the prestigious Housing Design Awards 2014.

PTEa St Luke's visualisation

Housing Design Awards is an non-profit organisation drawing on expertise across the housing industry to champion the value of good design.  One of its most important activities, now in its 64th year, is a national assessment programme, sponsored by government and the Greater London Authority, of new developments in the British housing sector.  This culminates annually with schemes shortlisted as the best from a broad range of entries.  This shortlist of completed and projected schemes is visited by a multi-disciplinary team of 16 judges.

The winners were announced on July 15 this year at a ceremony and reception held at the amazing new Saw Swee Hock Centre at the London School of Economics.  Two members of Cohousing Woodside were invited by Hanover to attend.  The overall winner was ‘Abode’development in Great Kneighton, Cambridgeshire by Proctor and Matthews, but CW representatives were proud that PTEa were part of the shortlist.