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‘We are making history’: UK’s first senior cohousing completed by PTE

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Pollard Thomas Edwards has revealed a new cohousing scheme for older women in Barnet, North London 


Described by the practice as the ‘UK’s first senior cohousing scheme’, the project features a mix of one, two and three-bedroom homes with shared social spaces arranged around a central courtyard. 

A social common house includes a meeting room, kitchen, dining area, a guest room and a laundry and drying space. 

The £4.2 million scheme, known as New Ground, has been designed specifically for women over the age of 50. 

Shirley Meredeen, an 84-year-old who co-founded OWCH, said: ‘It’s never been done before, and we will be completely running it ourselves. We are making history, and we are extremely proud. We are not going to be a little ghetto of older people, we want to be good neighbours.’ 

New Ground by Pollard Thomas Edwards

New Ground by Pollard Thomas Edwards

Source: Tim Crocker

Architect’s view

Cohousing is a Scandinavian idea gaining traction in the UK, where residents collaborate to design and manage their own communities. Each household has its own private home, but communities share common facilities. The idea is particularly appealing to older people, combining neighbourly support with modern comforts and privacy. 

The members of OWCH have been working together for many years, pioneering the idea of a supportive community for women in later life. We collaborated with OWCH to design their ideal community on a site in Barnet, acquired for the group by not-for-profit retirement housing provider Hanover. 

The women’s brief was very clear: their own sustainable homes, with shared facilities that create a sense of community. The collaborative design process that we facilitated was a learning exercise in understanding the realities of planning and building. We worked with the group to evolve a T-shaped layout focussed around shared facilities and communal gardens that gave every home its own outlook and sunlight. 

The scheme has its own distinctive character, while sitting comfortably with very different neighbours - a mixture of Georgian, Victorian, and more modern buildings. Like their neighbours, the new brick buildings front the street with low pitched pyramid roofs, while the asymmetric pitches of the garden wing roofs refer to the less domestic high street context to the East. 

New Ground by Pollard Thomas Edwards

New Ground by Pollard Thomas Edwards

Source: Tim Crocker

Project data

Location Barnet, London
Type of project housing
Client Hanover Housing Association
Co-housing client Older Women’s Co-housing (OWCH)
Affordable housing Housing for Women
Architect Pollard Thomas Edwards
Structural engineer Michael Barclay Partnership
M&E consultant ACC
Main contractor Quinn London 
Employer’s agent Philip Pank & Partners
Funding Sales, Tudor Trust
Start on site date March 2015
Completion date December 2016
Total cost £4.2 million 
Annual predicted CO2 emissions 15.6 kgCO2/m2
Predicted air tightness levels Very low air permeability (5.0 m3/hr.m2 @ 50 Pa) in all buildings. High performing building
fabric (U-values of 0.15 for opaque fabric, 1.4 for all windows)
Predicted energy demands 153,830 kWh
Specific environmental targets Code for Sustainable Homes - Code Level 4; GLA London Plan

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