Having recently started a module on alternative housing schemes we have be looking closely at the Building For Life 12 document that assesses the effectiveness of housing schemes using a 3 tier traffic system to highlight where schemes have succeeded or not.
As part of the module we have been asked to look at co-housing schemes, an alternative community centred form of living, and took a trip to one of these schemes located in Lancaster to take precedence for our own project.
Within this blog I aim to use the BFL 12 to access the Lancaster scheme and rate how well I believe it performed, giving special consideration to the fact that due to its nature it will not be the same as normal housing schemes and may need some lenience on certain sections.
Integrating in to the Neighbourhood
Connections – Due to the location of the development there are few existing routes in the area, besides a country road and riverside pathway. The development creates a pedestrian connection between these two routes as well as north-south and east-west routes through the entire site.
Facilities and Services – Again due to the location of the development there is a severe lack of external facilities and services in the area with the closest city (Lancaster) being roughly 4km away. However, as part of the co-housing scheme close to all the essential facilities needed, such as: food/ supplies storage, office space, community spaces etc… are all located on site and within walking distance for all residence.
Public Transport – Links to existing public transport systems are poor and having spoken to a member of the community can cause some issues for the residence. Their current solution to this is a car sharing scheme which I have been told is successful, but for a community of 65+ people and growing I believe better links may be needed in the future.
Meeting Local Housing Requirement – A small range of variation in housing types, although it was mentioned by a resident that almost all the houses come with the same commodities. Prices are unable to be found through the site which could put off some potential buyers. There are also homes for sale and rent showing a variation in tenure type.
Creating a Place
Character – Real lack of surrounding settlements to take precedence from so any character that this development does produce would be unique to itself. That being said there is a real sense of community when on site with a number of community facilities that bring people together. As well as this the building type/ materials are all very similar however there is a lot of space on the external façade’s as well as dedicated external space for personalisation of the site. An example of this was an area outside a house that was turned in to a playground by some of the residents.
Working with the site and its context – The development uses the river as a focal point for the orientation of the development with balconies facing towards the river and all routes connecting the main road to the riverside. There is also a large topography change on site that is dealt with well through housing types to be erected on sloped hills.
Creating well defined streets and spaces – In the day does well to look on to the main path and riverside as the houses have large front and back windows and overall does feel safe. I’d have some concerns over how safe you may feel entering the site at night mainly due to its isolated location and forestry environment.
Easy to find your way around – Being a relatively small development it is easy to find your way from the entrance to the residential area. However, if you were unfamiliar with the site or visiting for the first time you would struggle to find where some of the communal facilities are located.
Streets and homes
Streets for all – The development has just 1 main central street that has been pedestrianised, which the residents claim is perfect for allowing children to play outside without fear of them running in to any danger.
Car Parking – Attempts are made to reduce the need for cars and car parking through a well-established car sharing scheme so that the only necessary car parking is for visitors. This does seem to work for the residents however it may deter some people who would wish to have their own car parking space in the area.
Public and private spaces – Being a co-housing scheme this is very important to get right to accommodate all the residents. Looking at the public space the communities’ facilities are very strong and external public space is evident and well kept. Private space mainly confines to within your dwelling and private balcony, this may be off putting to those who would like more external private space.
External storage and amenity space – Bins are hidden in bin shelters that are just off the main street. Amenity space is limited due to most activities taking place in community-based environments and lack of external storage space as there are no gardens.
Green – 6
Amber – 5
Red – 1