Cohousing: Could this model be the future of housing?

From coworking or shared office spaces, designers have now started to design more cohousing places — an alternative housing model that is beginning to regain popularity. Although the idea is not new — it was born in Denmark in the late 1960s — our current climate and environmental conditions make it relevant to the times as it can drastically reduce our carbon footprint. Advocates love it because it uses fewer resources and less energy, it is ecologically healthy, and it fosters deeper social interactions. Cohousing residents appreciate it because they experience better health and better quality of life, apparently because of it.

The housing model that we are used to is the single-family housing unit, which is not only expensive and environmentally unsustainable, it is also sometimes alienating. Architecture firms like Helen & Hard (Norway) have started designing and advocating cohousing communities, spaces, and environments that foster social sustainability and engagement. Resources — whether it is time, space, or assets — are shared, which leads to a more sustainable lifestyle. 

Case study: Vindmøllebakken

This cohousing project in Stavanger, Norway was designed by Helen & Hard using the Gaining by Sharing model. The community has 40 co-living units, four townhouses, and 10 apartments — all of them privately owned with respective amenities like kitchens and bathrooms. These private homes are clustered around 5,382-square feet of shared space that may be used for recreation, dining, cooking, gardening, etc. The shared spaces are jointly owned by the residents. The private homes, on the other hand, are smaller than conventional apartments but they are all well-designed and well-furnished.

The residents are free to decide whether they would like to engage with others or not, and the spaces are designed with this in mind. They can choose to engage whenever they feel like it, or they may retreat for quiet time if that is what they need.

Helen & Hard developed the Gaining by Sharing model together with Indigo Vekst and Gaia Trondheim. Based on principles of sharing, it is all about meeting the human, social, environmental, and economic needs of people in a sustainable manner.