Friday, June 13, 2014

Observer Ethical Awards 2014... winners!

We were delighted to learn a couple of weeks ago that we'd been shortlisted in the community energy project category of the Observer Ethical Awards 2014, and even more delighted to hear on Wednesday night that we'd won! 

There are lots of things about cohousing that are energy-efficient, not just our lovely Passivhauses themselves... our electricity micro-grid means that we share all our renewable energy (currently from solar PV, soon to be joined by Halton Lune Hydro), and we also share the biomass boiler which provides heating and hot water to all 41 of our homes plus Halton Mill

Read more of the story behind the award in this interview with Jon on the Observer website. 


Sunday, September 8, 2013

An elephant in the street

Many strange and wonderful things happen in our pedestrian street: last week saw one of the strangest. An elephant gliding along the street and around our common house, carrying our children on his back.

Rajah the mechanical elephant was guest of honour for the opening of Halton Mill, the low carbon workspace we have created out of the semi-derelict industrial building we acquired, unintentionally,
when we bought our site.

A decade ago, Halton Mill housed Luneside Engineering, a family run engineering works started by Colonel Bernirski, an eccentric Pole, just after the second world war. As one of the group of Luneside Engineering workers who turned up for the opening told me: “It was a brilliant place to work. We could turn our hands to anything.”

One of the things they turned their hands to was these 7ft high mechanical elephants, made to carry children along the seaside promenades of Britain. Chris, who oversaw the refurbishment of Halton Mill, tracked one down to the Crosby Lions In Liverpool, who kindly agreed to bring “Rajah” back home for our opening.

We somehow magically got the Mill fit for the opening - we didn’t have a budget to pay for most of the decorating, so it was a cohousing all hands to the pump job (with help from some soon to be Mill tenants as well). 

It was also a chance to showcase the talents of the people who will be working out of the Mill. Stuart, our resident magician, exhibited The Strange Thing, and made a bowling ball appear out of nowhere.  Mike, Myette and their children from Whirlwind Theatre showed off their hand crafted costumes.  Kate helped people make five minute books while Lucy did five minute massage. Miles played keyboard, Fiona the accordion. Canoe England brought kayak simulators for dry land races and Frances filmed the whole thing.

More than 250 people turned up: villages, former Luneside workers, future tenants, friends and even the son of the man who designed the mechanical elephants. It was wonderful.

Halton Mill is aiming to translate our cohousing philosophy into the workplace: mixing private with communal space, reducing the environmental impact of our activities, and sharing resources, ideas and facilities. We hope it will be as brilliant a place to work as Luneside Engineering was, full of ingenuity and camaraderie. If the energy, enthusiasm and talent displayed at the opening is anything to go by, we are on our way.

Friday, June 28, 2013

Lancaster Cohousing Project In The Final Of Passivhaus Trust National Awards 2013

Terrace A and the Common House patio - photo by Luke
Exciting news this week - we heard from Andrew Yeats of Eco Arc, our architects, that we've reached the final of this year's Passivhaus Trust National Awards! We're in the last three in our category, which is social housing.

Our entry says:

Lancaster Cohousing is currently the largest completed Passivhaus housing development in the UK, and also meets Code for Sustainable Homes Level 6 and Lifetime Homes, with site-wide renewable energy systems, all at affordable costs.
This owner-occupied project evolved through a participatory design process with the individual householders and Eco Arc Architects. It follows the cohousing model with 41 private houses in a car-free site, alongside shared community facilities including a common house, laundry, orchard, gardens, children’s room and play areas, and on-site work spaces for rent. The result is a neighbourhood based upon ecological values, where, as interviews with the residents have shown, it is very easy to live a low carbon, sustainable lifestyle in comfort.

For more about the awards and to see the other shortlisted projects, see the Passivhaus Trust website.

Sunday, June 9, 2013

Stories from Forgebank: Dawn on the bonuses of cohousing life

Hard to believe yet I’ve been living the cohousing life for 6 months now. I’m loving it. I wouldn’t ever go back to the more conventional way of living as I had in the Peak District. Already this seems the norm. There are rewards every single day.

Like watching one of our youngest neighbours hurtling down the street in her pyjamas at 7.30am having just mastered bike riding without stabilizers.

Like the magical way there is a tasty hot meal when I get home from a day’s work at Dacrelands Clinic where I work as a homeopath.

Like the way a charity shop system just seems to organize itself. This is great because we are all downsizing, decluttering, rearranging and making our homes beautiful. One person’s discarded item becomes another’s prized object.

I’m trying not to take these bonuses for granted. Every morning I admire the view from my balcony and get a warm glow not just from the well insulated, triple glazedness of my house but from the fact that we are having minimal impact on the environment and wildlife that I am looking out on.

My cats are loving it too and now they have had more new mates move in just down the block. Great! Bulk buys of cat litter from an ethical, sustainable source. Not that they care.


Thursday, June 6, 2013

Stories from Forgebank: Gill on cooking for 40

“Yikes!” was my first thought about the prospect of cooking for forty, it is a daunting prospect. But I’ve done it six or seven times now and it’s been one of the most rewarding things I’ve done since moving in last September.

Sharing food and our meals are an important time when both children and adults eat together in the Common House; it’s a great time to talk to and get to know one another. I also love taking the time at the end of a meal to sometimes read or tell stories to some of the children (it lets mums and dads off the hook for just a few minutes too).

I eased my way in to the whole ‘big cooking’ process by being second cook, effectively veg peeler and chopper and wash-up-as-you-go person for the first few meals. The most memorable being a burrito brunch on Boxing Day for neighbours and their family and friends. We’ve had Emma’s burrito brunch about three times now and it’s a firm favourite.

I’ve braved being lead cook four times now - something that includes deciding what to cook (not as scary as you’d first think), acquiring the right quantity of ingredients (work in progress), reassuring your assistant and timing. So far everything has gone according to plan with the exception of buying broccoli far too early in the week, by meal day it had gone a bit yellow... However nobody seemed to notice or they were too polite to say anything (so please don’t tell anyone).

So, ahem, moving on … My repertoire now includes veg crumble, cauliflower cheese/seed, red dragon pie (mung bean shepherd’s pie for the uninitiated) and pasta with a choice of three different sauces. (And a couple of pans of soup and prize winning vegan chocolate brownies – but that’s a different blog post).

One thing I’ve discovered: I’m an okay cook (phew!). The greatest compliments have been when folk came back for seconds (or thirds - but I won’t name names), asked for the recipe, and when the assistant cook said is was stress-free (hurrah!). All leftovers have been quickly polished off the next day for lunch (so making too much has never been an issue) and I’ve forgotten who I loaned the veggie crumble recipe book to (it’ll turn up).