The Craneshaugh Cohousing Design

In the process of designing cohousing this site of Hexham, I had a lot of experience to share.

Hexham is a beautiful city which basically has both historical buildings and constructions with British modern architectures. People who living there are friendly and their income is shortly over the average level. Senior age level group of residents are about 20 percent, and this is a large occupation of population. This craneshaugh site, has a tricky typography with 13 meters height difference from north to south side, and it is not a flat ground from east to west. The Cockwood land actually became a shadow of sunlight on the south side of the site, and public transportation there are not very convenient.


source: Hexham (UK) Nothumberland postcode +NE46/@54.968475,-2.0725046,395m/data=!3m1!1e3!4m2!3m1!1s0x487d90620d319815:0xa83a2b78210dc004


Before we started, I have no idea of what is cohousing. In my cultural background, we have affordable housing for rent to those people who have needs, and they need to que for sign to live in those houses, besides, the form of these kind of housing are apartments. So after the visit of Lancaster cohousing site, me and my colleague finally get some point of the definition of cohousing, and agree deeply of this form of housing will largely enhance the opportunity of social interaction.




After the baseline analysis presentation, my partner got much more information about Hexham, such as social economic and historical background, and about cohousing, too. So based on those information we had, we decide to utilize this typography to have its unique identity, and also for mixed type of housing.






So we beginning to think out the appropriate road system, right housing types, and the most important, the unique typography that can contain these together.

After some tutorials, we finally made some progress that we will use blocks with natural way of roads to form a different neighborhood. Of course, we also designed large and small open and green spaces that may connect the different communities together as a whole, and share those facilities for making more social interaction of the whole site. We like to make residents love to live this kind of neighborhood, and getting more support from each other.




I have learnt a lot of things from my partner, and also from this program. Team work and hard working fulfilled this semester.

Understand design in the design process of cohousing



Figure 1. Source : Atlanta Web Design

As an international student, I deeply feel the difference of the Chinese and western cultural ideas from life to academic research. After graduating from university, I worked for one year, mainly contacted the business plan design, now I return to the university in Britain for further study, and in the transition of these different processes, I had different opinions to design in each stage, and also had different thoughts and attitudes to design.

I have always been thinking that city is an interesting and wonderful thing. We use our own idea and paintbrush to design and modify the whole city, so as to create a better living environment for the human beings. I think design serves people, and all designs start from people’s demand and desire to achieve a perfect effect. In this term, we begin to design the cohousing community project, and I find that human is not the only subject to be considered, because in the process of design, we must consider many other factors, for example, how to blend with the environment surrounding the site, and the treatment of natural environment and biological environment of the original site. Design does not mean to change the environment to adapt to the development and use of human beings, but it is to achieve the sustainable development of human beings and environment, and this is what we should think in the current process of design.

After the case study before design the detail, I found that the initial purpose of the cohousing was to make people live in a better community and help residents to create a happy life, but in the process of continuous development and improvement later, cohousing has become a new trend of sustainable development, because it reasonably solves the problem of sustainable development. The living concept of cohousing is let private resident centered on the common house to sharing community resources is an effective way to reduce the resources consumption and optimize the energy efficiency, so as to promote a sustainable lifestyle.

Figure 2: Landscape design plan in China20130717043306278


In the process of design, according to the socioeconomic conditions of Hexham, we designed three different types of houses, cohousing, social houses and private houses to meet the different housing demands of the local residents. In the treatment of outdoor space, in British they relatively stress the simple and freeway, and they pay more attention to the utility and guidance of the site, and more importantly, they create an appropriate public space according to the environment, but not to change the current status to achieve the purpose. On the contrary, in the business plan design of China, the designers and consumers pursue the external image excessively, and they often are more willing to spend more money and time meticulously building many different landscapes to enrich the public space of the community, for example, large spray fountain, meticulous sculpture and expensive decoration materials, now it seems that these landscapes of gorgeous appearances do not attract people to more participate in the outdoor activities, on the contrary, those meticulously trimmed lawns are prohibited to be stepped, while the high expenses behind the meticulous design, including the later maintenance and repair fees are borne by the residents, and this increases the living burden of the residents while the residents do not enjoy the outdoor space very well.

Therefore, in the study and design of different projects, include cohousing, nantes project and other design work. I deeply think and study the design concepts which I did not know previously, and it helps me understand design better and learn how to consider the design for different projects from different perspectives.


Figure 1. Source:

Figure 2: Landscape design plan in China. Source:


Understanding Cohousing and design a cohousing for old people



Figure 1 source:The Cohousing Company McCamant & Durrett Architects

Cohousing is a living area built by the residents who work together, and the residents themselves will actively participate in the design, construction and management of the whole community. The residents of cohousing are blended into the whole community life consciously, while the physical design of the community encourages the communication of individual space and community. In the cohousing community, the private houses contain all basic functions of the conventional houses, and the residents also have the opportunity to get the outdoor public facilities, like an open community space. In order to save the resources and indoor space, the community is also provided with public laundry room, storage house to reduce the resource burden of private residences.

Cohousing was started in Denmark in the 1960s, from then on, the design concept of “living community” has been rapidly spread globally, and this new type of living form has been widely accepted by everyone. Mccamant and Durrett (2011) proposed that cohousing is a typical demonstration community in the new field of sustainable development, and they made great success in achieving the sustainable development of environment, society and economy. I understand there are some typical features include in cohousing project through case study and field trip to Lancaster cohousing project.

Being closed to the traffic network makes it convenient for the residents to travel, and encourages them travel in green and environmental manner. The advanced frame technology is applied to achieve the minimum use of timber, and the solar azimuth is analyzed to consider the utilization of natural lighting and solar energy. Various new, environment-friendly and sustainable materials are also applied in the house construction, while the outdoor land use design also meets the demand of people’s community activities. And community garden also needed in community life.


Figure 2: Hexham community engagement event

Source: (Alina Pavolva, 2015)

In the cohousing project we design, we want to design a cohousing community for the old people. When we investigated Hexham, we found that the local population is aged, the young people are not around the old people, and the ole people will feel lonely and are lack of care, while the senior cohousing community provides an opportunity for the old people to get together, enhance the mutual exchange and makes the old people can care each other, maintain vitality and health. Therefore, from the demand of the old people, we first considered many types of houses for selection, like one bedroom houses, two bedroom houses and three bedroom houses for big family. and keep all designs destination can be simply used and accessible. After the preliminary plan, we went to Hexham again to joined in Hexham community engagement event,communicate and discussed with local people on their different understandings and ideas to the residential design, and I mainly discussed with them on the opinion of outdoor landscape design. In the meeting, many ideas of the local residents were clear and expressed directly, making me collect a lot of useful information. I thought some of their opinions carefully and applied them in the design. I understand that the most important in design is to consider what groups of people will use the land, how to use it and how to make people use it happily, so as to improve the quality of the whole living environment by connected the indoor and outdoor space connection.



Durrett, C. & McCamant, K. (2011), “Cohousing and Community: Creating Co-housing”, New Society Publishers, Canada.


Figure2: Alina Pavolva, 2015

Visit a cohousing project —Lancaster cohousing scheme


Source: Author’s Own

The best way to understand a new thing is the visit site. In this term, we conduct the cohousing project design. After the teacher introduced the design concept of cohousing, we had a field trip to the cohousing community of Lancaster. Which located in Halton beside river Lune. It’s called Fragebank and it is a cohousing project of private houses, common house, work shop, studios and shared outdoor space.

Cohousing is a new type of residence development form, which well combines the private residence with the advantages of sharing public facilities, and strengthens the neighboring relation (McCamant and Durrett 2011). The purpose of such cooperative neighborhoods is to organize and manage the social interaction and individual space by the residents themselves in a planned manner.


Source: Author’s Own

Lancaster cohousing project is a good example for this. First, this project provides many residence forms for different groups of people to select, it have 1 bed flats, 2 bed and 3bed houses. And all houses are distributed on both sides of the main sidewalk, and the internal structure of the house is reasonable to maximize the utilization of space. One of the characteristics of cohousing is to move the same family living facilities to the common house, for example, to establish a public storage room, laundry and guest house, which reduces the space occupancy within the private house, saves space and energy. In order to maintain a stability and good horizon, the back of the house faces the river bank, making people better enjoy the living space and feel a good outdoor environment.

Common house


Source: Author’s Own

The common house is in the center of the site, which is helpful for the residents to visit the public facilities. Interestingly, it divides the kitchen area and storage house, management room and children’s room into two, respectively distributed on both sides of the main street of the community, and both sides are connected through the application of ground materials. Also there added a transparent canopy, making it more beneficial for the connection of two spaces. The sidewalk in the middle is the inevitable road for most of the residents in daily life, and this will encourages people to go out of their private space and participate in the community activity. The common house is mainly consists of the large public kitchen and dining area, and there is public community terrace outside, where can enjoy the scenery of river side. By the way, we are allowed to use the common kitchen to made food together in the lunch time,this was a very good experience, making us feel how people lived and communicate in the cooperative community.

Work shop


Source: Author’s Own

There is a big work shop located in the entrance of the community which have carpenter room, art room and other various rooms of different functions in the studio, and it provides computer, machine and other public facilities. This studio encourages the exchange of resources, facilities and ideas, and provides the community residents with more community activities, thus enriching the residents’ life and strengthening the community interaction.

This project is a cutting-edge example of sustainable design and living, which will encourage other sustainable community development as an implementation example and inspiration, and will connect other communities to drive the surrounding communities to establish a sustainable living environment together.


Cohousing and Community, Creating Co-housing, McCamant, Durrett 2011

Lancaster Cohousing


Figure 1,Figure 2,Figure 3,Figure 4: Author’s Own



Trip To Lancaster Cohousing


On the trip to Lancaster, all I know about cohousing is like a kind of affordable housing that contributed by some social organizations. But when we got and had a chat with people who living in there, I had a feeling that all of those residents are like a big family, they choose to live there not just because of lower rent, they also share different facilities and resources, and have much more social communication with each other than the modern neighborhoods that we are living now. After the quick browse of different function of rooms, for example, kids’ room, laundry room, we made ourselves a great meal in the big common house. A lot of residents came to share the food, and they are so familiar with each other.


The most interesting thing is that I found out they have a food store that you can buy some seasoner, and residents share the duty by writing on a board. This is one of the ways to getting more foundation to develop the community.


Also, in another building, we were showed some large space workshop, offices, art and music studios, etc. This building is funded by the company named Green Elephant. A lot of people can actually work and enjoy themselves by using the amazing facilities and rooms, and they pay some rent, which can be another way that contribute to development. The atmosphere is quiet and full of creation.



For the space that I looked, they share some parking spaces before the river, and the front yards are giving by very narrow space for putting stuff, but their back yard is beautiful and open, they can put the children toys on the ground, and the fences you can hardly see. When we looked at the inside of one of the houses, the space of living room and bedroom are quite enough and comfortable. They also have terraces for first floor and outdoor platform on ground floor to enjoy the air and nature which have contained the privacy and public needs in every houses.


I have learnt a lot of cohousing by this trip, and I will use these experience into our cohousing project.

Images took by Yun Zhang, 2015

Hexham Community Engagement Event

 IMG_2786 (1)Figure 1

Hexham Community Centre

(Alina Pavlova, 2015)

On Saturday 18th my classmates and I took a 30 minutes train from Newcastle to Hexham. The trip aim was to visit Hexham Community Centre. The task for this week was to discuss some issues about design of a future cohousing with invited guests.

The community helped us to find necessary information and provided us with a good introduction to the topic. This event has helped me to obtain understanding about the personal people’s feelings of development of the place. It was very useful that we could talk and study about the existing cohousing and it allowed us to move forward our Hexham design. Hexham cohousing intended to accommodate members of the elderly generation unwilling to settle in a calm environment of standard or retirement houses. For this reasons lively, artistic colourful interior were proposed by community and my group to correspond to a never ageing nature of the residents. A multitude of common rooms and large corridors were included in the plan to allow the pensioners to communicate and spend time with friends (Brenton, 2013). This event provided me with a good overview based on the stories of existing residents of the commune house, which could not be found in books.

Our group were concentrated on a development of Community House. The common house is designed to incorporate a canteen, laundry and other shared facilities and shops which will also be available for visitors. My group prepared 5 questions for the community. Such as:

  1. Who is going to use a common house?
  2. What kind of activities held in a common house?
  3. Where is the best location for co-housing?
  4. Is it necessary to produce some space for guests?
  5. When is the peak time of using a common house?


The community answers us and gave us very valuable responses which we will definitely use in our development of the project.

uuuuFigure 2

 Community Engagement

(Alina Pavlova, 2015)

After a while, we had a tea break and then we started all over again. We swapped groups with our classmates and asked questions from other people about their dreamed imaginary cohousing. The experience of such event is very useful because you have real people with their unique desires. My group mates and I transferred some of the selected ideas into a diagram (see Figure 4).

Communal House

Figure 3

Diagramm of  Common House

(Alina Pavlova, 2015)



1Brenton, M., 2013. Senior cohousing communities – an alternative approach for the UK? Available at: [Accessed 21 April 2015]

2Bradley, C., 2012. Community Planning Toolkit. Available at: [Accessed 21 April 2015]

Colorful Village Project – Study Cases


After all the site analysis completed, the design process will begin. The Selection of some study cases which meets the requirements is one of the process. Study cases are expected to help the designer to develop an empty land that has been given into a complete housing neighborhood design.

In this study cases, we observe two important things that we think are useful for further design process. The first is the layout of the housing group itself and the corner of the housing group that often become a problem if not thought out carefully.

The Staiths, Gateshead


Source :

From the case the study above, the thing that attract my attention is about how they create a layout for the housing group. The way chosen by the designer is y arranging few houses become a U-shape as shown above because here is no unit in its southern part. By doing this way, there are two things that can happen.

1. Each unit of this grouping can get the same light intensity because sunlight will be more to come from the south. Thus, the use of the heater will be reduced and the room becomes not too humid.

2. There is an empty land in that area of ‘U’ grouping which can be used as an open public space. The place can not only be used by residents, but also by the people that are around.

Pilot Project, Guatemala

PrintSource :

For this case study from Guatemala, the interesting thing to be noted is about the way they design a linear housing. In this case, they do not  normal linier housing, but they shift each unit in the grouping to one side as illustrated above.

In this way, every unit in that housing linear housing can get the same light intensity. In contrast to the usual conventional linier housing that the front row unit are the only unit which can get full sunlight.

Brownhills, West Midlands

 PrintSource :

Lastly, designing each corner of a housing group is not an easy thing. Sometimes, we need a special strategy for that part if we does not want to get any problems later on.

From the case study in the West Midlands, the strategy they do to every corner of the housing group is making the unit into an access and service area. A gate that can be used by every person to access the backyard of any units.

rom all of those study cases that have been described above, help us to improve our design to the next stage.After this, we get into the actual design. From the concept to the final design. I will try to describe in my next post. However, I have to wait because there is still a possibility of changes. After the final design accepted by the tutor, I will share it here for the discussion that helps us to make a better final design.


CABE (n.d) Staiths South Bank – Gateshead [online] Available at: photos=true&viewing=4437 [ACCESSED 25th March 2015]

ADU 2020 Pilot Projects (n.d) Social Housing As A Response Towards Worthy Housing [online] Available at: [Accessed 25th March 2015]

Brownhills Bob (2012) New Homes Planned for Brownhills [online] Available at:  [Accessed 25th March 2015]

Understanding Design Features – A Visit to Forgebank (Lancaster’s Co-Housing Scheme)


After being introduced to the idea of co-housing and beginning site analysis, as a cohort we undertook a site visit to an established co-housing scheme in Hoxton, Lancaster. Considering the outcomes of present site analysis and academic research I was particularly interested to consider how the design features encouraged social interaction within the scheme. Shown around by a resident of Forgebank’s community, I came to acknowledge the importance of design in creating a sense of community and enhancing the possibilities of achieving social interaction. From the design of the individual dwellings, the shared facilities to the key areas of movement and access. Each design decision has been made carefully to ensure the success of a scheme. The observations I made throughout the case study visit, supported the argument of Durrett and McCamant (2011); suggesting that design can encourage ‘strong community interaction’.

Design Features to Encourage Social Interaction 

The Placement of Common Facilities 

Shared facilities where placed at the centre of the development. This helped to ensure that the facilities where easily accessible by all residents. At Lancaster the cohousing was placed around a narrow pedestrianised street. The common house, washing facilities, storage area and guest bedrooms was in the middle of this street, by using a change in pavement surface it is clear where the shared facilities are. Covered by a clear plastic roof the pedestrianised street surrounding the facilities is protected from the weather and can be used by the community in all weather conditions. The clever choice of materials suitably highlights the common facilities as an extension of people’s private dwellings and external spaces. Locating the facilities here ensure that most residents will have to pass it regularity as it sits on the most direct route through the site. Which as ScottHanson states ‘facilitates opportunities for spontaneous and frequent interaction’ (2005, p99).

Figure 1: Image to show the pedestrianised street and common facilities in the Lancaster CoHousing scheme, considering the change of materials to highlight communal spaces. (Image – Author’s Own).480549_10152932146752639_6603641292207541989_n


By providing parking spaces at the periphery of the site, the Forgebank site is predominantly pedestrianised, this provides external spaces for the community to interact and creates a safer environment for children to play. Durrett and McCamant (2011, p257) suggest that parking areas should be clearly separated from the living environment, to act as a buffer shielding the residents homes from roads. In Lancaster this is achieved by having small plots for parking located at different edges of the site.

Figure 2: Diagram Highlighting Parking Areas in Grey. (Digram – Author’s Own).

PIC Lancaster Site Layout

 The Internal Design of Dwellings 

Each dwelling that faced the pedestrianised street, was designed so that the kitchen was facing the public access route, this creates the opportunity for neighbours to see each other; for example when stood doing the washing up residents can see the street and people using the street can see their neighbours. This ensured that the living room was positioned furthest away from the pedestrianised street, so that people could relax in there own private spaces without being seen or disturbed by the other residents (Durrett & McCamant, p65).

Figure 3: Diagram to show the internal layout of Lancaster CoHousing Dwellings. (Diagram – Author’s Own).

PIC Lancaster House Layout Photoshop

Therefore to summarise it is important to consider the impact of design decisions when designing a cohousing scheme. Decisions and layouts should be created to use the strengths of the site to the maximum to ensure the opportunities are created for both social interaction whilst creating private spaces which residents have easy access to as and when they wish. The consideration of such design features will be of high importance when producing the forthcoming masterplan required to be produced as part of the ‘Housing Alternatives’ module.

References and Figures 

Durrett, C. & McCamant, K.,  (2011), Creating CoHousing, New Society Publishers, Canada.

ScottHanson, C. & ScottHanson, K., (2005), The CoHousing Handbook, New Society Publishers, Canada.

Figure 1: Image to show the pedestrianised street and common facilities in the Lancaster CoHousing scheme, considering the change of materials to highlight communal spaces. (Image – Author’s Own).

Figure 2: Diagram Highlighting Parking Areas in Grey. (Diagram – Author’s Own)

Figure 3: Diagram to show the internal layout of Lancaster Choosing Dwellings. (Diagram – Author’s Own).


Visit to Lancaster Cohousing


Figure 1. Shoe-Free Home, Lancaster Cohousing (Alina Pavlova, 2015)

For some people there is nothing so exciting as traveling, and I’m not an exception. This week I  have visited a place called Lancaster Cohousing. It is located in a village called Halton. The place is not far away from Lancaster. Lancaster Cohousing situated on Forgebank and has an amazing rural location next to the peaceful river Lune. It has a south facing slope which facing the river (Alison, 2015). There are many green spaces and it has zero-carbon emission and it is build according to the AECB Gold Standard.

The excursion around the cohousing was led by our teacher Roger and Kathy (the lady from the Cohousing). This trip provided me the opportunity to meet new people and learn new things. I have discussed with the cohousing members about their experience of living in the commune building. They said that it is impossible to be bored in the cohousing. It is easier to live with other people both in terms of cooking and cleaning. If the duties are distributed properly, a schedule is drawn up and closely followed, occupancies may have a great amount of spare time. Life in the Lancaster cohousing provides an experience that is very useful in helping to get along well with other people.

Surely some of the aspects of commune living were also familiar to me from my personal experience of being in summer camps and university accommodations. These places collect people from all over the world and allow them to live together at least for a short time in one sharing community regardless of their gender, family ties, nationality or race.



Figure 2. Cliodhna’s House, Lancaster Coghousing. (Alina Pavlova, 2015)

In addition to creation of a new type of social living, Lancaster is also distinguishable by its special design features. Lancaster had a big variety of common areas. This is intense to encourage the residents to share their activities and live side by side in one united society. If the duties are distributed properly, a schedule is drawn up and closely followed, occupancies may have a great amount of spare time (Young, 2015). This Cohousing incorporates canteens, laundries, workshops, children’s play rooms which helped eliminate the need to cook, wash clothes etc. (see Figure 3-5). The time which was saved as a result of this could be used for work and other practical activities. You are sure not to be bored in the cohousing. Life in cohousing provides an experience that is very useful in helping to get along well with other people.


Figure 3. Common Laundry Room. (Alina Pavlova, 2015)

Food storageFigure 4. Food Storage. (Alina Pavlova, 2015)

Play room

Figure 5. Children’s Play Room. (Alina Pavlova, 2015)

Let’s have a look at Figure 6. This place called cohousing living room. In order to enrich our experience of Cohousing, our tutor asked us to bring food and to cook it (see Figure 6). The cooking activity with my classmates helped me feel more connected with them. It brought so much joy to each of us. We spent time together and spent less money on food. Each of us brought some ingredients for cooking. We cooked lots of different meals and shared it with each other. The place looked like a buffet. You could choose what you would like to eat from a big variety of cooked meals.


cooking timeFigure 6. Cooking Time. (Alina Pavlova, 2015)



1Alison, 2015. Lancaster Cohousing. Available at: [Accessed 10 March 2015]

2Pavlova, A., 2014. Utopian Ideas in Commune Buildings, Dissertation

3Young, J., Stir the Pot, No a relationship: how Cooking Together is a Healthy Date. Available at: [Accessed 11 March 2015]



‘Colorful Vallage’ for older people in Hexam

colorful town

In this semester, we are going to design co-housing, social housing and private housing in Hexham. This is my first time to know about co-housing. Therefore, what is co-housing? Here, I will explain it briefly. It is more like approximately 20 to 30 dwellings will live together in the neighborhood which they can share common room with kitchen, dining room, laundry and children’s playroom. For common space, people do outdoor activities together, such as kicking a ball with others, having afternoon tea and a common vegetable garden and chickens. Cars are also not allowed get into the site.

Strat doing our design in Hexham, first, we analyse socio-economic in terms of aging, demands and properties. As we can see in the picture, the grey shaded areas for both males and females compare with the broken and the solid (England 2021) vertical lines. It shows that the higher populations proportions are older people who are aged 50 and above. So in our design we decide to make neighborhood for older people. After that, we found people in Hexham need 1 bedroom and 2 bedroom houses on Homefinder. That makes our mind to design more 1 bedroom and 2 bedroom house in our site.



Nowadays, older people feel loneliness and their children have less time to take care of them. Older people have less communicate with other people when they at home. Therefore, how to deal with this phenomenon? Co-housing is one of way to solve. Senior cohousing communities let older people live independently together. They can help each other by cooking in the common room, or taking care of each other when they are ill(Fromm & Jong, 2009). Senior cohousing will meet needs of older people, the physical design of the homes and the place where is accessible and ease of use are addressed by common house (Silverberg, 2010). Here are some layouts for common house:

common house


In our design, thinking of safety and health for older people, we divided car and pedstrain road. However, I think there are some drawbacks in this system:

1. Residential environment is not good

2. Security zones at corner

3. Occuoied area too large

4. Unsafe places

5. Commercial facilities without traffic support will give its economic benefits greatly

6. People who drive home will feel the area is boring because of the monotonous paths



  1. Fromm, D., & de Jong, E. (2009). Community and health: Immigrant senior cohousing in the Netherlands. Communities, 145, 50-53.
  2. Silverberg, K. (2010, October 1). ‘Cohousing’ adds options for a diverse aging population. Herald-Tribune, p. A.8.