1,001 co-operative and community-led homes: the housing revolution starts here.
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by Miguel Fernandez 15/09/2017
Ambos is committed to a consensus decision making process throughout the entire development and beyond. But how do you design a 30 home development where each household has an equal say in the decision making process? what do the homes look like? how should they be constructed? And what technologies should be integrated? These are just some of the decisions to be made by the group.
It is certain that the more stakeholders and associated 'needs and musts' of a project,the greater amount of contingency exists and therefore the greater the need for synthesis during the design process. If participatory planning and design represents a democratic process for place-making, then those involved in designing our built environment, must see it as an opportunity to transform the outdated way many of our neighborhoods are designed, where participation in the design process is often a tokenistic offering to future inhabitants.
As the design champion for Ambos, l have begun speaking to construction professionals to begin understanding the design process that needs to take place and to help Ambos members decide who we want to work with throughout the development.
First up was local Penryn Architects Maurram who have uniquely adopted virtual reality(VR) technology as part of the standard service for their clients. For many people, unless you are in construction, Architects technical drawings and language can be challenging, trying to visualize spaces from two dimensional plans and cross sections can challenge even the most spatially aware person. Michael Hormann and Adam Laskey, two of the directors proudly spoke about occasions where clients using this technology have been empowered to make confident decisions about the size and layout of their homes, resolving issues surrounding overlooking and understanding specific views clients would get from each space. Micheal and Adam were keen to give me an experience of their VR set up, which of course I was delighted to have a go!
Once familiarizing myself with the controls, and remembering that if I saw a blue mesh appear then I was about to walk into a real life obstacles, my mind was beginning to believe I was actually in a fancy new spa facility. Looking around I could get sense of the generous height of the vaulted rooms with exposed beams and began to feel what it might be like to visit this place, it was fun exploring the transitions from outside to inside and enjoyed a quick dip in the pool, the kids would love it!
With VR as a tool to aid the decision making process, a more immersive and inclusive experience of the design process could be afforded to our members, which could help the group make confident decisions and reduce uncertainty for those who might struggle with reading architectural drawings. With not too much trouble each Ambos household could be given time in their virtual future homes, all members of the family could join in an have the chance to comment on the designs progress, even the kids could start arguing over who’s having what room before they even move in!
We live in a time where the possibility exists to gain support and funding across many of the digital platforms to transform our culture of housing provision. From P2P lending, crowdfunding and the rise of the collaborative commons, surely now is the time to get organised and take our homes out of the housing market and back into the commons, back into the hands of the people….
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Ambos, along with many organisations, believes that UK citizens deserve better access to land and more choice when it comes to how we build our homes. Recently we wrote a letter to our local MP Sarah Newton. This letter outlines how important it is for the government to continue to financially support the growth of co-housing in the UK (response to letter here).
Currently the UK self build market stands around 8%, which primarily tends to be accessible to older, more affluent households with some capital behind them, with co-housing making up just a fraction of that market. Other European countries have much higher percentages of self-build housing provision, for instance France with 38% and Austria with 80% (1). This low level of self build does not reflect the desires of the population, as according to a UK survey, commissioned the Building Societies Association, 53% of people in the UK would consider building their own home if given the chance (2).
We believe these statistic represents an opportunity for UK policy to a support innovative co-housing developments as a viable mainstream choice to volume house building. We believe that making this step change towards an increase in co-housing will be necessary to support systemic behavior change and help create genuinely sustainable communities in the UK.
Community groups have warned a £300 million fund for new affordable housing projects is at risk as the political parties battle over spending pledges. The National Community Land Trust Network, the UK Cohousing Network and the Confederation of Cooperative Housing have joined forces to urge the parties to commit to a five-year fund set up last year to boost their work.
Many local residents in Falmouth have concerns about the rapid growth of the University and the increase in the amount of students in the town. I recently came across this article about a nursing home, Humanitas, who have been allowing students to live there rent free! Whats the catch? Well, they must spend 30 hours each month with the 160 senior residents. Do you think that this model could work in Falmouth? Surely as the University grows we should think about how we can best integrate student life into the lives of local people, to encourage meaningful long-term relationships to be forged. Maybe once those students graduate they will want to stay in Falmouth, maybe investing themselves in a new business or service to strengthen this amazing town.
Check out the article below….
What do you do when you're stuck in student housing and are fed-up of the noise and poor conditions? Call-up your local nursing home, of course. That's exactly what one Dutch student, Onno Selbach, did when the student halls at his university in the city of Deventer, Netherlands, became too much.