The UK's first co-housing project (pictured) - an experiment in communal living - has been designed by sustainability specialist Architype and is beginning to take shape on a hillside in Gloucestershire.
Co-housing, a concept imported from Denmark, works on the principle of individual units owned by the community's residents, with an additional jointly owned house used for cooking and socialising.
Architype director Jonathan Hines said the Stroud project, the first in the UK to surmount the many practical problems that stand in the way of establishing these communities, threw up some unique design opportunities.
When complete, the community, on a sloping site five minutes outside Stroud town centre, will have 38 units in total, including 20 houses, flats and studios. In addition, the shared common house, placed at the heart of the site, provides the focus for the community. The site is kept largely car free, there are no fences between the units, and the project is one of the first to win a government grant for photovoltaics. It will cost about £3.4 million to construct and should be completed by January 2004.
There was some disagreement at certain stages, for example about the layout of the site, Hines said, but differences were resolved.
By working together to produce the brief for the project and the designs of the individual houses, the collection of individual owners had already become a group.
'There is a committee for every issue you can imagine, ' Hines said. 'They already have a policy on keeping pets. The biggest problem for us was remembering the individual specifications for all the different houses.'