Resident of Marmalade Lane cohousing, Jan Chadwick, explains why living in a multi-generational community is so important to her.
Interview with Jan Chadwick
Jan Chadwick and her husband became interested in cohousing after reading a newspaper article in 2013 about the benefits of community as you get older.
After carrying out some research and staying with a cohousing group in Stroud for an immersion weekend, they decided that their current lifestyle and location wouldn't provide them with enough of a sense of community as they moved into older age.
It's about being neighbourly, not about providing care
For Jan, it wasn't about living in a community that would provide care as they got older, but one that would provide neighbourliness. With plenty of research showing that people who are engaged with a community can stay ‘younger' for longer, as they are more active mentally and physically, Jan and her husband knew this was the way they wanted to live.
They were happy to relocate to find the right project
With the K1 Cambridgeshire project they were encouraged that the land had already been purchased and there seemed an active way forward to making the idea a reality.
Our podcast with Chris Wilson of the K1 cohousing group explains how the scheme was set up.
“We've broken a lot of moulds – and the design guidance!”
The site has a belt of mature trees that they and the planners wanted to retain, so this was an element of the design layout that didn't change. The rest of the design went through a long process of changes at various stages until they reached the final layout which enhances community, the environment and offers the southern open aspect that they wanted for energy performance.
A multi-agency project
There have been lots of different groups involved in bringing the scheme to fruition. Initially there was a relationship between the cohousing group, Cambridgeshire Cohousing Limited, and the City Council, with the City Council helping to get the project started, and initially providing the payment for their project manager.
They then applied for money from the Homes and Communities Agency to work out their client brief, which they did over a number of workshops with Jim Ross and his team at Cambridge Architectural Research.
With their 60 page brief they were able to work again with the council to develop a tender for a developer. The group were heavily involved in the tender process, ensuring they would get the quality they wanted for the building of the houses and environment.
Their chosen developer, TOWN, created a consortium with Trivselhus, a large Swedish housebuilder. They worked with Mole Architects to develop the design and tick the boxes required by South Cambridgeshire District Planning Authority.
The transport links make it an ideal location for the residents
The site is well located for public transport, with the new North Cambridge railway station just a bike ride away. It is also on the guided bus route which leads into the centre of Cambridge, and is right next to the A14.
Each property has one parking space, and a quarter share of a visitor parking space. And, being Cambridge, they also have 146 bike spaces!
It is a multi-generational cohousing development
Creating a multi-generational development was a key requirement of the group, and as such, they have properties sized from one to five bedrooms. It was also important for enabling residents to have the opportunity to upsize or downsize within the development later on.
The original members were able to configure the design for their particular property, with the remaining unsold properties being configured by Mole Architects.
With 42 properties on the site, there will likely be over 100 people on site when fully sold, so it was important that the facilities will accommodate the growing numbers.
They wanted a garden they could use as productive land, a wild space for growing, a common house where they could interact with the community and quiet rooms for retreat.
There are also three bedrooms in the common house that can be used by guests.
Many of the properties are future-proofed
The properties are built to a standard developed by Trivselhus, which is to around 70% of Passivhaus, and Jan says that they hardly ever have the heating on in her apartment. Hers was built using Cross Laminated Timber, delivered from Europe.
As a group they decided that they didn't want gas. They chose to go electric so they could use renewables in the future, and all the houses have air source heat pumps.
The apartments are Lifetime Homes compliant, as are the larger houses, with some having wet rooms. They are wheelchair accessible and are able to put in hoists if required. Their particular building also has lift access.
They are designed to be a modern take on a typical Cambridge terrace
Jan describes the lane and houses as looking like a fairly typical terrace, in keeping with the older terraces of Cambridge while also not looking out of place if it were in the Netherlands, due to the large windows.
Planning conditions meant that the building on the south west corner had to be designed as a landmark building. It houses two apartments and a gym and workshop underneath.
The common house has a square design. It has a woodburning stove, which has only been used once as it hasn't been needed, and like all the houses it has underfloor heating and plenty of natural light.
Moving in was in two phases
Moving in was coordinated so that some people moved in just before Christmas 2018, and some just after.
When setting up the common areas they agreed that what people didn't want in their own homes but thought could be used elsewhere, they could donate. As part of a quarterly community work day they had a selection process where they decided whether they could use those donated items and in which areas.
They have a budget for furnishing the common house and any other bits and pieces they still needed were purchased from that fund.
Living there has exceeded expectations
Now four months in, Jan says living there has exceeded all her expectations, both from a community point of view, and also with how happy they are with the construction of their homes, their quality and the energy efficiency.
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