House construction- what are they built of/ How eco are they?

We haven’t designed the houses yet so construction techniques and materials haven’t been decided. Each house will fit the owners, so finishes and what the houses are made of will vary according to each design.
Some of us are aiming for the way we build to be as easy as possible for the self builder to get involved. Some people are concentrating on keeping costs down while being eco, and others are focusing on design features.
In the group we have an experienced eco builder who has made buildings using
straw bale with lime render, timber framing and mixtures of other techniques and finishes.
We aim to be as eco as our budgets will allow, while still being connected to the grid. We probably won’t have gas on site, but will be connected to the electricity and mains water supply. We are considering PV on the roofs (generating electricity from the sun) and are exploring the pros and cons of geo-thermal heat source and on site waste water treatment.
We will be working to high externally validated eco-standards ( e.g. Passivhaus, Living Building), while addressing the challenge of individual households build budgets.

How saleable/ mortgageable are the houses?

All of the houses will be able to be used to raise a mortgage.
They should attract a regular market price for the area; however we are aiming to create a community (however light touch), so potential purchasers need to know they are buying into a lifestyle as well as buying a home.

How are they being designed?

The design process is being led by Patrick Redmond of CTD Architects in Leek, as he is a member of the group. Technical advice and support is also being supplied by Peter Wilshaw of Greenbuilt who is also a group member.
The group is creating the design briefs for the houses, including ideal layouts; the shared/ community buildings and how the site works overall.
The final technical plans and drawings will be prepared by the architectural practice that is appointed by the group.

What are the rest of the community like?

We are a group of people, many of whom have a connection with creative industries and some (though not all) of us work as practitioners and educators in the arts. We range in age and life stage from young families to retired couples, and some households are single people, while others are couples and some have children and grand-children living on and off site.

How “community” focussed is it?

We are all committed to living in a friendly, but not intrusive, set up, in which there will be some pooled resources. There will be a community owned building which will have a room with kitchen and toilets that can be used for parties, events, training sessions, and meetings etc as well as visitor accommodation available for the whole community to book.

We are planning productive gardening spaces which will remain in shared ownership- how these are managed is still up for discussion.

The community is still working on defining our “rules” and expected behaviours.

In short what our version of co-housing looks like is still in development, but it is likely, from the discussions we have had so far, that the minimum we will do is organise how to manage the shared resources. We are all clear that co-housing for us won’t involve weekly meals for example, but will be more about living a non-judgemental, tolerant and friendly cluster of eco homes

What happens if we don’t get planning?

We will appeal in the first instance.
However if the case seems hopeless we will look for an alternative site.
A director of the Co-Housing Group, Mick Downs, is supporting us through the planning process. Mick is a very experienced planning and urban-scape design consultant.

What are the key risks?

* Not getting the planning

* Current members circumstances change or are unable to get the funding together and they have to drop out thereby destabilising the group

* We can’t attract enough members to make it financially viable

* We can’t get a development loan to finance the building of the houses

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