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

Identity by Design – The Case of Co-Housing

Whilst developing the concept design for a new residential development on a vacant site, one of my first thoughts was the consideration of how to create different character areas and establish a settlement which portrays distinctive place identity. Sepe’s  (2013) argues that aesthetic elements arranged successfully to engage the senses are beneficial to the creation and enhancement of a place’s character and identity. By considering that character and identity are not static design features alone but are related to social identities (Stokols & Shuckers 1981), the concept and ideology of co-housing relates closely to discussions surrounding place identity. Co-housing developed as an intentional community is often based on a specific ideology, shared values or religious or spiritual beliefs  (Durrett & McCamant, 2011); which consequently contributes to the character of spaces.

Watson and Bentley (2007) suggest that designers are required to understand a place’s identity from the community themselves, defining both needs and aspirations. When designing the co-housing community it is of importance to consider at a practical level; how places are used and the symbolic level of their meanings. Through the arrangement of morphological elements as raw material designers should organise these in such a way to create relationships. For example this can be seen in the Lancaster Co-housing scheme, as shown in Figure 1; the pedestrianised street, meets the desires of the community as it creates a car free space for interaction as well as using design decisions to enhance the understanding and promotion of key spaces. As the material used changes in front of the common house and communal facilities the user becomes aware that they are entering a different zone of different use.

Figure 1: Enhancing Character Through Design Decisions and Material Choices

Source:(Author’s Own, 2015)









By influencing users perception, through engagement of the senses, ‘networks of symbolic significance can influence human behaviour’ (Sepe, 2013), returning back to the example of Lancaster the change of materials encourages people to congregate outside of the communal facilities instead of outside people’s individual homes. This observation suggests that when designing the future co-housing scheme landscapes, buildings and materials should be selected based upon the successful contribution to the scheme’s character and identity.

The opportunity of the forthcoming community engagement event can act as a stage to discuss and define the desired character and identity of the Hexham co-housing scheme and how this will be achieved. To later inform design decisions and create a viable scheme that is unique to the community which inhabits it.

References and Figures 

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

Sepe, M., (2013), Mapping Place Identity, Routledge, London.

Stokols, D. & Shumaker, S., (1981), People in Places: A Transactional View of Settings, in Harvey, D., (Ed), Cognition, Social Behaviour and the Environment, p 441-488, Lawrence Erlbaum, Hillside.

Watson, G.B. & Bentley, I., (2007), Identity by Design, Architectural Press, London.

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]