The BBC has recently covered the story of the LILAC co-housing project.
LILAC Co-Housing, recently named LILAC GROVE, is constructed on the site of a former primary school in Leeds, LILAC (Low Impact Living Affordable Community) is a development of twenty affordable houses and apartments. LILAC is a community led cohousing group who have commissioned the housing with support from the Homes and Communities Agency and the Technology Strategy Board.
The scheme is designed by White Design architects and uses the innovative ModCell® straw bale building system to provide a low-carbon and environmentally friendly housing development. White Design worked closely with the community through a series of workshops to develop a scheme that met the needs of the LILAC community as well as consulting with the wider community in Bramley. The final design optimises the layout of the site around cohousing principles and uses passive design and fabric first techniques to ensure that energy consumption is minimised. The houses use Mechanical Ventilation Heat Recovery (MVHR) to reduce heating bills by recovering heat from the exhaust warm air and adding it to fresh incoming air. The flat roofs support arrays of photovoltaic panels adding renewable energy to reduce emissions further. Opportunities for the community to reduce their environmental impact is embedded throughout the design of the homes as well as the landscape they sit in.
LILAC is one of the UK’s first mutual home ownership societies (MHOS) and aims to provide affordable homes for local communities. Individual homes can’t be sold on the open market. Instead, LILAC is owned and developed by the society as whole and residents own a share of the society. The project has been financed through a commercial loan and, because the society is the developer, there is no requirement for a conventional developer’s profit margin. If people want leave leave within three years they get their initial investment back; after three years their return is calculated according to average incomes in the area rather than house values, ensuring the homes remain affordable for locals.
As a co-housing scheme, members share facilities in what is known as a common house, which includes a laundry, communal cooking and eating space, a play area and office space. The common house is a place to meet and socialise as well as where the day to day management of the society is based. Each house and apartment has their own kitchen and bathroom like any other home. This communal approach to sharing, cuts energy use and promotes a sustainable way of life as residents are encouraged to grow food and provide a supportive environment for older and vulnerable members.
The houses and apartments are arranged around an informal courtyard with a pond at its centre. The pond harvests rainwater as part of the Sustainable Urban Drainage scheme (SUDs). One third of the site is set up as a shared landscape with allotment gardens, which will be used by the residents to grow their own food and reduce their ecological footprint. Car spaces are also limited to reduce the carbon emissions from transport and all residents sign an agreement on joining which commits them to the philosophy of the society.
LILAC’s community and sustainability agenda, was the reason it chose to build using straw. “We chose straw for its environmental credentials and because it allowed the community to get involved in the construction process,” explains Paul Chatterton, resident and co-founder of LILAC.