Permaculture and Community: LILAC Green Cohousing

Permaculture and Community: LILAC Green Cohousing


This is LILAC co-housing,
and this is a completely different approach to a
development in a suburb. It’s an old school ground, and it’s been developed with energy efficient buildings. They’re paneled straw bales, and it’s quite high density,
and it’s just gorgeous. It’s a lovely way to settle people, in a really environmentally conscious way. Living together, and cooperating, around the same ethics. Let’s go and have look. I’m here with Joe Atkinson. And Joe, you’ve been
here from the early days. Yeah, that’s right,
yeah, I mean, I was here, I got involved in the project in 2010, so that’s like three
years before we completed, and then helped to bring
the project to fruition and helped to manage the
construction project, and all the rest of it. Right, so how big is the site? Okay, so we’ve got three
quarters of a hectare, in total, and we’ve got 50 people living on it, so it’s fairly dense, but it’s kind of suburban
level dense, too, really. Now you say, we, you had
an idea, you had a concept. Can you lay that out for me? Because this is pretty unusual. [Joe] It’s called LILAC,
and that stands for Low Impact Living Affordable Community, and that idea really came
about, came about from a conversation as a lot of
these ideas do, you know, and it was two couples, who
were sitting in a bedroom at a party on New Years
Eve in 2006, I think, and they were kind of saying, Ah, you know, it’d be really
nice to live somewhere in a community, somewhere
that reflects our values, somewhere where we can bring our kids up that’s a really nice place. And the idea just grew from there, really, they got people involved,
people, you know, they would start talking about the idea, to like-minded friends, they
started getting involved, and sort of promoting the idea, and eventually the
community just came together and yeah, built this place. [Geoff] It doesn’t look like straw bale, because you built in
pre-constructed panels. [Joe] Yeah, that’s right. A firm called ModCell, who came up with this particular design, and it’s essentially these timber frames, that are then stuffed with straw bale, and it’s lime render on the outside and lime plaster on the inside. Very well insulated walls,
airtight construction, so you’ve got these airtight
tapes around the junctions, between the walls and
the ceiling and stuff. Triple glazing, and then we’ve
got mechanical ventilation with a heat recovery, so you’re taking that stale
warm air, pumping it out, passing that across a heat exchanger, to preheat the incoming fresh air, so really holding onto
that heat in the building, so in the winter they stay really warm. [Geoff] I know they feel very cozy. Yeah, I’ve got spreadsheets
of all my electricity bills and gas bills and stuff. So my home, it’s only a
one bedroom apartment, which I guess that’s part
of the kind of eco-living, we don’t all need to
live in massive mansions, and living somewhere like this where we’ve got a common
house and all the rest of it, I don’t need to live in a big house, ’cause I’ve got all these
shared assets I can use as well. But my energy bills, so
at the moment I’m paying around about 340 pounds a year, for all my gas and all my electricity, and that compares with
the average British home is something like about
1,200 pounds for the same, for a year of energy. So you’re on a quarter. Yeah, between a quarter
and a third, I think, yeah. So you have a common community area, and you have a common laundry, common kitchen, meeting area, plus you have gardens
through the whole thing and a lot of it’s edible
by the look of it. Then you have an edible area that people can grow their own food. [Joe] That’s right, yeah. And the gardens here are really designed to have a mixture between
a little bit of food, so we can have nice fresh
stuff, biodiversity planting. I mean, Yorkshire’s a
very agricultural area, and modern agriculture, as you know, is basically, it’s like a factory system. Really bad for wildlife. A lot of insect species,
and all the rest of it, need to have really biodiverse cities. So yeah, it’s a real kind of
wildlife-friendly planting, and some of it, you know,
it’s just nice flowers that make you feel happy,
and cheer the place up, it’s a real mixture. You catch your own water off the roof? Yep. So the water off the roof
goes into water butts, so that’s water for the gardens, and then when they’re
full, it overflows into, it’s like a communal pond
in the middle of the site, and that rises and falls
and that discharges into the public drain, but
at a very reduced rate, so when there’s a very heavy rain event, we’re not contributing to flooding because we absorb a lot of it here, and then release it very slowly. How did you fund this? There’s a lot of infrastructure here? Yep. We use this kind of
pioneering financial model called Mutual Home Ownership,
and what that means is the whole thing is
owned by a cooperative. Technically, we don’t own
the house that we live in, but the cooperative owns it, and we all own shares in the co-op. It’s a little bit like
being our own landlord. The amount of shares we own in the co-op is related to partly our income, and partly the size of
the house that we live in, so if you’re on a very big income, you can afford a lot more shares, and you can afford a bigger house, you can finance a bigger place. If you’re on a very high income, your house kind of gets more expensive, but what that means is
that one of the other homes in the projects gets cheaper, ’cause it’s all balanced
across the whole project. And that creates affordable housing for people on low incomes. So the money came from a mixture of our own capital that we had up front, we got a bit of a grant
from the government because we’re building using
an innovative material, using straw bale for the houses, and then we got a mortgage from an ethical lender for the rest. [Geoff] So, are you fully occupied? Yeah, and got a waiting list as well. -And a waiting list.
-Yeah. In fact, we had to close the waiting list ’cause people aren’t moving out. That’s a good sign. Yeah, people like it here. So, you’ve done a Permaculture
Design Certificate course? [Joe] Yep. [Geoff] And that’s all
been part of the planning? [Joe] Yeah. [Geoff] If someone was
going to want to do this, and they want to set out on this journey, what are the first steps I should make? I’d say, create a shared vision. It’s really important that everyone, everyone feels that they’re part of it, but you really need to
keep bringing people in and really involving
them in a meaningful way. Every so often you need to then go back and check your vision,
but it’s that vision, and it’s that kind of, here’s
what we’re going to do, and here’s what it’s going to
look like when it’s finished, it attracts people, but then
you’ve got to really make sure that they own it themselves as well. -So, yeah, the vision.
-Good advice. Well there you go, LILAC co-housing. This is the future of inner-city living, and that means, many
of us can be involved, and we can all enjoy the journey.

Author: Kennedi Daugherty

32 thoughts on “Permaculture and Community: LILAC Green Cohousing

  1. This is very similar to my vision for a new style of homeless shelter. One that eliminates the homeless portion of the equation. I just need Geoff to agree to consult on the design. 😉 aaahhh, someday.

  2. If you engage people who are homeless, and involve them in a hands on building project , like this one or like Earthships which are totally off grid , you will empower humanity in a truly meaningful and lasting way. I have lived in many homes and places , but never had so much a sense of complete satisfaction as when I was building up my one and only place.

  3. Fascinating. How is division of labor handled. The food production areas will require some labor to maintain. How are the common areas governed, related to required labor, and the rules of who can take how much of the produce? Would love to learn more of the practical details on this, and what issues have arisen, and how they were handled.

  4. Use Ecosia .com to help poor countries to plant some trees for survival and sustainable agriculture in areas where it's needed!

  5. a housing complex without a community garden shouldnt even be a thing those people need it most id know

  6. This isn't government housing, for sure. This is thoughtful, and reinforces resiliency, rather than dependency.

    Hate the poorly designed wall construction/roof arrangement. Bad ratios of lime can be hydrophilic, and lack of overhang can leave walls vulnerable to rains.

  7. So are the jobs nearby? Surely they should have to be to be able to have more time to look after the gardens etc

  8. Looks great. Why gas though? Environmental reasons aside, surely infrastructure costs and maintenance must be an issue? Not a criticism, just a question.

  9. This is the kind of video that makes eco-sustainable land use interesting and appealing. Thanks so much, Geoff.

  10. Right in the beginning of the animation, I got lost when the timber frame was to be filled with straw? It looked like the corners were filled with straw. That didn't make sense, from that point it was no help and went downhill. I know you really didn't want to tell anyone how to do it, must be wanting to sell the design. But, is there Anyway another video can actually illustrate how to build these homes again??

  11. Inspirational!
    Ive had a lot of trouble finding people to build something like this with. At least people I could trust to be competent and willing. I keep talking to people, offering this or that, and no one wants to do anything. They just want to scream and yell at my local politicians about needing housing and rent prices being too high. Not a single one to help with gardens, land initiatives, etc
    Gotta keep looking!

  12. I don't ever want to live in a city it's just not ethical but this is cool I would seriously consider living in something like that

  13. WOW! we need more of these everywhere, people need community and genuine purpose more than many might even realize. This is just amazing!

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