The Wolf Willow cohousing development includes all three “pillars” of sustainability: environmental, social and economic.
Driven by “baby boomer” seniors, Wolf Willow Cohousing will be built according to high environmental sustainability standards. Even though the project is not pursuing accreditation for any particular green building criterion, the following provides an overview summary of some of the environmental features:
- Site selection: within easy access of public transportation and walking/cycling distance from many services.
- Transportation alternatives: substantial bicycle storage and easy opportunities for car sharing because of the socially connected community. Cohousing communities have a documented reduction in automobile usage in general.
- Sharing resources and bulk purchasing: extensive common facilities shared by the community supports the social fabric, which makes the sharing of resources a daily reality. Access to the extensive common areas allows members to own smaller individual units (guest-rooms are shared in common for example) and sharing of resources (such as cars and equipment) reduces overall consumption.
- Energy efficient building envelope: 2X8 insulation filled walls with 3” Styrofoam under exterior wall finish (approximately R-44 insulation value), R 60 insulation in ceilings and all windows triple-glazed with low E coating and insulated spacer.
- Alternative energy sources: Infrastructure in place to incorporate solar hot water panels, solar voltaic and wind energy.
- Energy efficient heating and cooling: radiant floor heating throughout the building for heating the living units, common house areas and the enclosed walkways plus a heat recovery ventilator (HRV) to provide ventilation. Sun shades and ceiling fans provide low energy solutions for cooling.
- Lighting: compact fluorescent and low voltage light fixtures with dimming capacity.
- Material Selection: durable long lasting materials, hard surface low impact flooring (marmoleum, cork, polished concrete),
- Water conservation: low flow toilets and plumbing fixtures.
- Rain water management:</em collected from the roof deck and workshop roof, rain water will be diverted to a series of four rain barrels along the exterior south workshop wall.
- Urban gardens: communal gardens will be located on the ground level and 2nd level deck.
- Composting: communal composting bins will be provided close to garden areas.
- Public participation: cohousing reaches out to the greater community to attract people to the process. There is no social agenda beyond creating a warm and friendly neighbourhood with the opportunity for more connection with neighbours.
- Respect and care for community life: the extensive common facilities are designed to create opportunities for spontaneous connection and support the social fabric of the community.
- Change personal attitudes and practices: a deep sense of connectedness to others can lead to radical realignment of personal priorities. In cohousing, although the individual is respected and valued, community well being is equally important. Such values can broaden into concern for the welfare of those unknown and those yet unborn – which is the essence of sustainability.
- Democratic self-determination: the members finance the development and decisions are made using consensus. The final product is the result of a shared intention and deeply co-creative process.
- Equal opportunity for personal self-realization: all members have equal opportunity for participation, leadership roles and access to information.
- Reduced need for external human resources and infrastructures: in a community where people know their neighbours, there is considerable opportunity for the natural connections and support that reduce the burdens of day to day living. The little things that make living independently challenging for elders can be supplied naturally in a cohousing community, reducing the need for outside support.
- Safety and security: “Safety is in knowing your neighbours – not in walls and barriers.” – Corporal Dan Kelly RCMP.
An aspect not often considered when looking at affordability is the cost of living. Because of the social structure and access to shared resources, cohousing homes provide opportunities for reducing living costs that are not available in conventional neighbourhoods (such as car-sharing, bulk purchasing, shared elder care, etc.). Even subsidized housing in conventional developments will likely have higher living costs than cohousing homes. So, developing a cohousing community contributes to the affordable housing continuum.
- Resident managed development builds homes “at cost”. Profit that would normally go to a developer stays in the project in the form of better quality finishing, common areas for shared use, environmentally sensitive design and any other features that the resident group may choose to include.
- Educated purchasers make more sustainable choices. The future residents determine the product so there is a natural opportunity to become educated about the cost benefits of choosing certain options. Knowledgeable purchasers are more likely to choose a higher capital cost now with future savings, thus choosing better quality and more energy efficient alternatives.
- Access to shared spaces reduces individual home size needs. Workshop, guest room, craft room, meeting room, office, etc. can be shared in common. Individual homes can be smaller when there is easily accessible space available for common use.
- Access to shared resources allows individuals to decrease material possessions without impacting on quality of life. Because of the social fabric of the community the sharing of computers, printers, fax machines, camping and sports equipment, freezers, tools, and even automobiles are a natural part of daily life.
- Resident management can contribute to lower maintenance costs while also providing opportunities for contact and connection. Residents typically work together to manage and maintain the homes, and often work together on community improvement projects.
- Human resources are more readily accessible in a connected community. Cohousing provides an environment where the exchange of knowledge, skills, expertise and time is a common occurrence.
- Aging in place is supported. Buildings are designed for aging in place and the social support available in the community allows elders to live on their own longer than in conventional housing.
- Market demand supports value. Experience has shown that cohousing communities have excellent resale value. People are willing to pay for added quality and community benefits.