Low Impact Affordable Co-housing Development Starts Build in Leeds

Sarah Johnstone, permaculture.co.uk
Tuesday, 12th June 2012

LILAC, which stands for Low Impact Living Affordable Community, has recently commenced building work in Leeds. Sarah Johnstone investigates the benefits.

LILAC, which stands for Low Impact Living Affordable Community, has recently commenced building work in Leeds on a unique housing development of 20 homes using green cohousing design principles. Low impact living simply means to live as lightly as possible on the earth and reduce human impact on the ecology of our planet.

The LILAC development in Leeds is a pioneering project, self-funded by its members with assistance from the Homes and Communities (HCA) and The Department for Energy and Climate Change (DECC). The LILAC group have also had support from Leeds City Council with a deferred purchase option on the site, which was a former school.

The project is aiming to use natural, locally sourced building materials and straw bale construction techniques. With around 7% of global CO2 emissions being generated from cement production the project will minimise the use of concrete as far as possible, although not entirely.  Good design will reduce the need for energy input with the aim for the homes being as carbon neutral as possible.  There will be solar PV on all homes and solar thermal on the larger three and four bedroom homes.   The site will have plenty of water butts and a sustainable urban drainage system with a pond to attenuate surface water run-off.   Equally important is for the residents to work towards low impact living through reducing consumption and excessive energy use around and home, plus avoiding unnecessary travel with the local area being able to provide as many needs as possible.

Providing a sense of community was also crucial to the development with the result that all residents could feel they were living in a strong flourishing neighbourhood. The design, based on the Danish co-housing model, combines residents' need for their own space in a private house but with shared communal facilities. The 20 houses will be built around a community 'common house' with a meeting room, shared cooking, eating, laundry, play area and health space. Some of the facilities will be occasionally open to the surrounding community for events etc.

Affordability was also a real priority for LILAC. To achieve this the houses will be managed by a fully mutual home ownership scheme. Instead of owning their individual homes the houses and land will be owned by a Mutual Home Ownership Society. Each member will have a lease entitling them to live in a specific house owned by the MHOS. Membership will allow involvement in the build and design of their homes plus a democratic right to manage and control the housing community in which they live. The aim is to give households on modest incomes the opportunity to get onto the bottom rung of the property ladder in areas where they are too often priced out of the market. The development is designed to remain permanently affordable for future generations.

The foundations were commenced on site in April by the contractors, Lindum Construction, however, the walls are being assembled off site with assistance from LILAC members. Using a design pioneered by the company Modcell, the walls are prefabricated panels constructed from timber and straw bales with a lime render. They provide a super-insulated, energy efficient and renewable alternative to traditional building materials. Assembly of the panels takes place in a 'flying factory' as close to the building site as possible. It is hoped that the development will be completed by December 2012.

Visit: www.lilac.coop