Learning from Decohousing Denmark
There is a lot more to building a cohousing community than the walls… That is one of the lessons I took from our August event in the Sustainable Community Building & Living Series, learning from Decohousing, Denmark (WA).
On 6 August we invited the team from Decohousing Denmark (WA) to Perth to share with us their story, experiences and lessons learnt, building a co-housing community in Denmark, the WA’s South West.
I first learned about the project a few years ago when staying in Denmark for a few days during a summer holiday. The team had set up a stall at a big fair and were sharing their vision with anyone interested. I’ve been closely following the project’s progress ever since and watched with admiration how the vision slowly turned into reality.
I loved the photos Paul and Pam shared of their visits to other communities in Europe in a pursuit to find out everything, and I mean everything, about these communities. What they saw and experienced resulted in them building the Denmark project, one that in turn we can be inspired by and learn from. “It has all been done before, you can stand on the shoulders of others”, Paul and Pam said.
Eight Major Stages
Paul and Pam are two of the founders of the project. They were open and honest about the hard work and financial investment required to make a project such as theirs a reality. You start by investing $100’s of dollars, but this increases to $100,000’s when you purchase the land, and millions when you commence construction. “You should not be afraid of a couple of zeros…”
A company structure was used to develop the project. Future owners were expected to self-finance. This meant a serious financial commitment from project participant. “Older people financed their past; younger people mortgaged their future”, Paul says. Not all homes had found an owner by the time the project was ready to commence construction. SEFA Innovative Lending approached the group and provided a finance facility for the remaining unsold units, enabling the group to move forward.
The project broke ground nearly two years ago. A lot of attention is on the fact that, as far we know, this is the largest hempcrete project in the Southern hemisphere. Many questions were asked about this aspect. But it is important to remember that the walls are a minute part of a complex project such as this.
Paul and Pam admitted that construction has taken longer then expected. Completion has been delayed by a couple of months. In the meantime, babies are born and some people need temporary accommodation. This is challenging. But, while actual settlement of individual strata titles may be a little while longer, the future owners will be allowed to move in soon.
I picture future residents enjoying a cuppa in their beautiful landscaped gardens, making stuff in their shared workshop, wandering down to the shops or Mrs Jones for a coffee, share a meal together in the common house. The journey to get this community built was not easy, but for those that made the commitment, it will provide quality of life for years to come.
- A beautifully designed, friendly neighbourhood within walking distance of Denmark’s CBD
- Small but spacious, affordable homes
- Private and common areas
- A vibrant and healthy community
- Practical liveable spaces
- Growing food and friendship
- Simply living a good life
- Growing old(er) at home
A Cohousing Community
The project is built following cohousing principles, including:
- Collaboration for affordable high quality housing
- Community arises out of the design of the neighbourhood
- Shared common spaces and resources
- Cooperation arises out of proximity
- Beautiful spaces foster the growth of friendship and community
- Life with a diverse group of people
Decohousing in a nutshell
- 12 homes
- Strata Title
- Mix of home sizes
- Range of ages and household types
- Small private dwellings – large commons
- Walking and cycling
- 250m from the center of town
- Close to services, park and schools