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Marmalade Festival 2018: Alternative Housing Solutions for Oxford

This week we were at Marmalade engaging in all things housing, as the Festival explored this year’s theme on ‘place-based approaches to social change’.

Marmalade is a more informal, open-access, fringe event to the Skoll World Forum on Social Entrepreneurship. Both Oxford based, they run parallel to each other every year. What is great about Marmalade is that it is powered by it’s participants and engaged with by members of the local community (and wider) who are focussed on tackling social and environmental challenges.

Speaking about Co-housing examples at Community Led Housing Event

Transition by Design invited our director, Clare Nash, to speak about co-housing at their event on community-led housing on Wednesday 11th April. A few of the team have attended Marmalade events in previous years so it was great for Clare Nash Architecture to get involved this time too! In order to explain co-housing, Clare spoke about some project examples in her book ‘Contemporary Vernacular Design- How British Housing can Rediscover it’s Soul’; Sieben Linden, Germany and Copper Lane, London. A couple of key elements were; sharing of resources, higher quality housing and reduced loneliness.

Clare Nash speaking about ‘co-housing’ at Marmalade

Alternative Housing Models in Oxford

The event was intended for housing providers on the delivery of alternative housing models in Oxford. The two-hour session started off by discussing and identifying current barriers and challenges that housing providers face when thinking outside the box for housing typology. Following this, the conversation developed in smaller groups under the guidance of experts in the fields of planning, land, construction and custom-splitting; to think about any opportunities and ways we can work together to overcome some of these barriers. The workshop was quite fast-paced but with such varied experience in the room, it really got us thinking about more aspects to community-led housing than just the design of it.

Tricky problems – finance and land…

It was clear that a major sticking point when it comes to delivery of community-led housing is finance- we need a profession mindset shift here to make required financing more accessible. Also, thinking about this in the urban context of Oxford, another tricky element is land. The majority of Clare Nash Architecture’s projects are rural, so we do not usually have problems with people actually finding land. However, we do experience the challenges surrounding the viability of land for development etc. and these can be frustrating and cause project delays- not something we or our clients want to go through!

Clare and I really enjoyed discussing topics we believe will support more sustainable, affordable housing that will respond to the current quality of housing and it was a great opportunity to do so with other people who are passionate about making a difference!

More Marmalade events – Co-living and Co-housing

On day three of Marmalade, I attended Art Earth Tech’s workshop on ‘co-living’ where I learnt more about the differences behind terms like ‘co-housing’, ‘co-living’ etc. In brief, they explained co-living to be sharing your main living spaces e.g. kitchen, living, washing with smaller private areas; while co-housing is more about having your own private home with private amenities whilst still having some shared resources and spaces. Co-living isn’t a crazy new idea…many of us do it/have done it at university or in shared housing such as Housing of Multiple Occupation (HMO). However, in Oxford, these can often be of poor quality with little attention paid to the environmental benefits of shared living or integrating the community/residents into the design, maintenance or general running of the dwelling(s).

Penny, Tom and Naima from Art Earth Tech shared interesting information on their project including statistics on household environmental impact- some of which were astounding. Did you know that the average household produces 26 tons of waste greenhouse gases per year? To offset that in CO2 equivalent terms, we would need to plant 150 trees with a lifespan of 100 years each…that is a lot of trees!

In teams we spent an hour developing our ideal urban co-living community with each of the four groups coming up with something different including; a transition community of 100 young professionals living on their own for the first time, retrofitting an existing building for multi-generational residents under the cooperative or community land trust model for rent and a highbred co-housing, co-living self-sustaining community. The fact that every table came up with a different project just goes to show the opportunity for more types of housing like this and the varied social groups it could benefit.

Co-living design workshop at Marmalade

This was another fun session to get our thinking caps on and think both creatively and strategically about what a co-living community is, could be and make actionable and sustainable in an urban environment. I particularly enjoyed engaging with the variety of experience in the room which varied from super clued up on this topic to a new and tentative interest; in addition to meeting people with a shared interest in more sustainable, community orientated housing.

The rest of the festival was packed full of other ways to approach social and environmental change including; food waste, local volunteering and one planet living. Overall Marmalade was great and we are excited to continue the conversation on alternative housing models in Oxford (and wider), so that housing can be more sustainable. Sustainable in terms of affordability, energy efficiency and shared values, while simultaneously more communal with the residents and local community integral to the design process and ongoing maintenance of the residence.

Check out our other blogs on co-housing here: http://clarenasharchitecture.co.uk/portfolio/inspiring-housing-design-blogs/