More than a House

Cannock Mill cohousing group

From shelter to house, from house to home and from home to a place to belong

This is a guest blog from Cannock Mill Cohousing

I am writing this blog out of injured pride: I am the only one in my cohousing without neighbours on both sides. It is a stain on my character.

I admit my front garden may not as tidy as it could be but I will do my share of communal gardening. I confess I wake up early and listen to the radio but the walls will be thick, you won’t be able to hear me. Ok! I sing, but in a choir and I do not own a pet, despite loving them. Why am I alone? My home is in a charming cohousing with a view of the mill pond. I am so proud of our community, the homes we are creating, the houses we are building and the shelters that are keeping us warm.

We are building following Passivhaus standards. After certification, we will own low energy homes with comfy ventilation for the cost of a cup of coffee a week. Passivhaus design includes a high level of thermal insulation, triple glazed windows and doors, and the absence of thermal bridging. Our construction will have a timber framed structure and bamboo flooring, with a green roof. As protection against the elements, be it water, cold or heat, it is the most efficient shelter we could build at an affordable price.
We are planning houses adaptable to our changing needs. When our circumstances change we will be able to transform the houses to take account of our older person needs, thanks to the adaptability built in to Lifetime Home standards. The houses will accommodate us until the far distant end, allowing us to stay independent all that time.

The houses are as light as British weather allows them to be. Because bright natural lighting enhances the mood, access to it is important especially as we become older. All the principal rooms – living room, main and guest bedrooms – and the spacious balcony are south facing. Despite, or perhaps because, the house is Passiv, we have a high ratio of window to wall. In winter the houses are cosy, in summer they are fresh. The houses are so well designed, it is no surprise that our architect and founder member, Anne Thorne, will be living in one of them.

We are creating homes because our houses are the embodiment of our values. The cliché “home is where the heart is” though true, is only part of the story. We make our homes and our homes make us. Our homes are an extension of how we see ourselves. It is not only a place to feel physically safe but a place to feel emotionally safe, to be ourselves. And what are our houses telling us we are? Mainly that we are tolerant, adaptable and down to earth. We had to design the plans collectively and therefore we had to respect each other’s visions and find compromises. We had also to adapt to the natural constraints of Passivhaus Standards but our ideal was stronger than our fantasy. And we are down to earth because, despite the recognition that a home is an emotional investment, we know too that it is our main capital investment.

Lastly, your home is more an emotional concept that a physical reality. It is where you belong. It is the small corner of earth were you feel nurtured. How do you feed this longing if you have not lived all your life in the same street? By creating a community of people sharing your values, accepting you as you are and laughing at the same jokes. A place where you are an independent, acknowledged, unique human being with a stake in the community, an open minded dynamic community. I mean a cohousing. My cohousing. I am number 21, who wants to be 20 and 22?