Earthsong un écovillage/cohosing en Nouvelle Zélande
Earthsong Eco-Neighbourhood -
Construction is nearing completion on New Zealand’s first sustainable cohousing neighbourhood, incorporating Permaculture and eco-design. Located in Waitakere City, New Zealand, this exciting non-profit development combines beautiful Rammed Earth walls, environmental technologies, healthy non-toxic materials and neighbours who care! Some homes are still for sale.
A green place in the
Cluster of 6 terrace houses
Common house amenities building
time and stress
A new home
and lifestyle that’s easy on you...
Handy location and less
Be a part of showing the world a way forward with
people, by people
Their enthusiasm and creativity are testimony to the project’s importance for the long term health and sustainability of both our society and the planet.
View from the north of the neighbourhood
La brochure de présentation avec le concept, les règles et le processus
This information booklet introduces the principles, design and processes of our cohousing neighbourhood.
Over the past few decades many changes have taken place in our society. One of the results is that a growing number of people now find that the available housing fails to meet their needs. Household sizes have dropped, housing costs are escalating, and a multitude of people-single, elderly, single parent and blended families-are trying to live in housing created for the traditional 1950's family. Families and couples, too, are finding themselves isolated, having to make appointments to visit friends, and taxi children about in heavy traffic. In addition the nature of work is changing, as is our concern for the environment.
We are a group of people currently living in regular nuclear households, but with a vision of how a different way of living could be more sustaining of us individually, collectively and globally. Our vision includes building a cohousing community, which we are designing in conjunction with Bill Algie our architect, with our basic needs in mind, while also caring for the earth that sustains us.
We aim to recreate many of the advantages of the traditional village -advantages such as social contact, contact with nature, child care, economic efficiency and celebration. However, we seek to combine these with the sense of individual freedom and independence that is important to us in these times.
In addition to modelling 'social sustainability' the neighbourhood is being designed to the highest practical standards of environmentally sustainable human settlement, including the layout and design of neighbourhood and buildings, choice of materials, landscaping, and services. We hope it will also become home base for many green businesses.
We have purchased 4 acres (1.67Ha) at 457 Swanson Road in Ranui within Waitakere City and are planning 32 households-houses that will be freehold and of a range of sizes. We have chosen an urban location, partly because as a society we need to live more sustainably in cities, but mostly just because that's where we work, study and play. The eco-city vision of Waitakere City is particularly congruent with our vision, and provides fertile ground for this project.
It is a challenging project by any definition, but we see this project and others like it as essential to the long-term health and sustainability of both ourselves and our planet.
Our vision is to establish a cohousing neighbourhood based on the
principles of permaculture, that will serve as a model of a socially
and environmentally sustainable community.
Within this vision, our aims are :
Sustainable human settlements
While cohousing is largely a social innovation, Waitakere Eco-Neighbourhood both draws on and expects to contribute to the greater debate and journey towards sustainable human settlements. The project particularly has its roots in the now world-wide Permaculture and Eco-village movements, and also aligns with Agenda 21.
Eco-villages, whether rural or urban, attempt to bring together the many tools for sustainable living that are now largely available to us. The challenge is to integrate, as a whole, the areas of built environment, livelihood, ecology, personal & group process and decision-making. We see that Eco-villages in the urban environment are a natural building block toward Eco-cities.
The main principles of Permaculture are to care for the earth and to care for people. By creating complex assemblies of plants and animals in close proximity to people’s homes, Permaculture seeks to meet human needs in a more resource-conserving manner. Emphasis is placed on meeting food, water and energy needs locally—a concept particularly relevant to cities.
Agenda 21 is the action plan for ‘sustainable development’ that arose from the Rio Earth Summit in 1992. It was a commitment by world leaders to programmes to achieve a sustainable 21st century and beyond. It is significant that Waitakere City is one of only a few NZ councils to have embraced a local Agenda 21 policy. Agenda 21 recognised that the consumption patterns of cities are severely stressing global ecosystems, and proposed that sustainability must be tackled on three fronts: environmental, social and economic.
The next three pages will examine the design principles of the project from these three perspectives.
The eco-neighbourhood will be a high quality, visually attractive physical environment incorporating advanced sustainable architecture and technology and comprehensive sustainable landscape design. This includes:
In line with our vision we will be in a unique position to trial, monitor and demonstrate many sustainable technologies and methods.
Earthsong Eco-Neighbourhood seeks to provide a viable new housing option. Here we plan to meet the needs of the young, middle and older age groups, so as to create a diverse intergenerational ‘village’. We seek to balance the needs of the individual and the community, in a way that allows both to flourish. Our concept includes more specifically:
Our wish is not to create an exclusive enclave, but to foster a sharing and exchange with neighbours and others alike. In this way we can fully integrate with and contribute to the wider community.
We sought a site for the neighbourhood within the urban area, so as to support participation in the urban workplace. In addition, Earthsong embodies some of the mixed-use character of ‘Urban Villages’. Some work and wealth will therefore be created on site as well as accommodating residential and recreational uses.
Residents of Earthsong Eco-Neighbourhood will retain individual financial autonomy—while at the same time enjoying considerable economies of both money and time through co-operation.
The project also seeks to accommodate people with a wide range of financial means, and in this way promoting a better sense of economic equity.
The concept will include:
Design detail--private dwellings
Dwellings are a mix of two-story 'townhouses', attached at the sides to free up site space, and single level apartments. Excellent acoustic insulation between units, and the careful avoidance of overlooking of both indoor and outdoor living areas, are a high priority.
Dwellings are designed of rammed earth and naturally durable timber construction. Solar water heaters are planned as standard. All buildings will be designed for energy efficiency and natural climate control using passive solar design.
Because the common house will provide spaces such as larger gathering rooms, guest room and recreational spaces, the dwellings can be smaller than standard housing. Therefore unit size ranges from 50 to 100 m2 They have a full but compact kitchen, as well as living area, bathroom, and bedrooms.
House prices will vary with size, at this stage in the range $155,000 to $325,000. Roughly speaking, what we save on roading and profit, we will spend on green materials and services.
The whole of Earthsong, including the private homes, has been
designed by well-known Auckland architect Bill Algie, with extensive
input from the group. This allows us the luxury of architecturally
designed homes, but does so economically by sharing the cost. The
dwellings therefore have a unifying theme, while incorporating a
number of dwelling vari-ations.
Design detail--community space
With community space comes community life! The heart of all cohousing communities world-wide is a spacious and cosy common house. Our common house will accommodate kitchen and dining room, guestroom, and children's and teen spaces. We also plan to have other shared facilities such as business office support space, laundry and craft room. Such items as a hot tub or photocopier when owned collectively become more accessible to us all-sharing in this way allows us to be richer!
We envisage meals in the common house being available about five nights a week, with vegetarians being catered for. All residents would have the choice on any given night to eat at home or at the common house. Given people's busy lives, the cohousing experience is that most people welcome coming home from work to a tasty meal, and a 60% turnout is typical.
From the common house and common open space located at the focus of the neighbourhood, pedestrian pathways lead to clusters of dwellings. With around 60% of the land held as common space, areas of organic garden, orchard and natural/wild areas will be planted amongst the houses. A large pond at the low point of the site doubles as an attractive feature and stormwater management. That we will be able to accomplish these things within the city is due to relatively dense clustering of houses and a much reduced need for roading, which often takes up 40% of land.
Cars will be parked in car-park areas, with some carports available, near the entrance of the site, screened with trees but overlooked sufficiently for security. Occasional vehicle access to houses may be possible for emergency vehicles-but in general the pathways within the site will be people places for walking, talking and playing!
The maintenance of common spaces and property will need to be very clearly structured so that the work is shared and facilities are properly cared for. Similarly the collective organisation of tasks such as the cooking of common house meals will need a clear and simple system. In this regard, there is much experience from overseas that we can draw on. However, much of the culture of our particular neighbourhood is evolving from the actual resident group as it develops.
The committment to develop and manage housing together requires a culture of co-operation. We see that fundamental to what we are doing is the importance of process—that how we go about something is at least as important as what we do. Good group process maximises empowerment and harmonises contributions from those involved. Learning to work together in this way and make decisions as a group is not easy, but fortunately experience and good tools are at our disposal.
We have developed a very clear meeting procedure, which begins with ‘checking in’ on a personal level, before relating on a business level. We are committed to the practice of ‘consensus seeking’ decision making.
One process we use for facilitating meeting discussion is the ‘coloured cards’ method. It has been evolved and used successfully by several community groups world-wide, and we have added some refinements of our own. Additionally, we have established a set of communication agreements and these are fundamental to our way of working and living together.
We also recognise most importantly the need for personal and
group ‘sustainability’—if we don't sustain
ourselves, how can we
sustain the environment, or development of the project. So we
preserve and expand our capacity by attending to praise and
acknowledgement, suitable rest, ritual and a big dose of passion for
Our Communication Agreements
1. I will use “I”
speak for ourselves, not others
The coloured cards method
Black : I have an interpersonal difficulty that is preventing my full participation
Red : I have a process observation, eg. the discussion is off the subject
Orange : I wish to acknowledge someone or something
Yellow : I have a question, or need clarification
Green : I can provide clarification
Blue : I have a comment or opinion.
Cards are accorded differing priority and are
heard in the order listed above.
Green I agree with the proposal at hand
Blue I am neutral or basically for it, with some slight reservation.
Yellow I have a question to be answered before I can make a decision.
Orange I have a serious reservation, but I am not willing to block consensus.
Red I am entirely against the proposal and will block consensus.
If any orange or red cards are raised, those
people with reds or oranges get to voice their concerns, if they
have not already done so. At this point, an amendment to the current
motion could be made which may address concerns raised.
This process requires every person in the room to participate in decision making. Dominant personalities will find it harder to push their ideas through at the expense of less vocal members, and softer-spoken members find it easier to voice their concerns.
Consensus does not mean we all take care of
These groups are for now:
We have set up a company, Cohousing New Zealand Limited, as our legal entity to undertake the development of our community. Three co-ordinators from within the group are working closely with the architect, experienced project managers and other professionals to manage the design, documentation, consents, financing, titling, marketing and sales issues of this complex project.
Site purchase of 457 Swanson Road, Ranui was completed on 26 November 1999 and was fully funded by members without borrowing, thus ensuring we have more control over the development process. In December 1999 we submitted our plans for resource consent to the Waitakere City Council.
We will be seeking a construction loan and will employ an experienced manager to co-ordinate construction of the site works, units and common house, planned to commence in October 2000.
As this project is resident-initiated and developed, we need to have many people on board prior to commencing construction. Bank conditions are such that we are seeking to presell 100% of all units prior to construction commencing. At the time of printing approximately half of the planned 32 units have been spoken for.
This is definitely a self help project, not an off-the-shelf product-to make it happen requires that people get involved! This kind of housing is not otherwise available on the market, and by nature very unlikely to be in the near future. It is important to restate, that to bring this vision about does require commitments of time, money and energy. This commitment is what will create cohousing in New Zealand.
As people are committing significant sums of money, a very clear and solid system of accountability has been developed. Cohousing New Zealand Limited has an agreement with members that designates rights, responsi-bilities, and defines security and risk. The purpose of the company is solely to construct the project and will likely be dissolved after it has achieved this goal.
Neccessary equity for the project is raised by members who, in essence, loan money to the company. Various interest rates will be paid depending on the stage at which the money is loaned. Interest will be credited to members accounts upon completion.
It is important to stress that despite many of us having skills in the building industry and in business, we recognise that development is a very complex business. We are therefore employing all the appropriate professionals such as architect, lawyer, project manager, financial and specialist consultants, and taking all prudent steps to ensure this project is successfully completed.
As stated, Earthsong Eco-Neighbourhood depends on membership to make it happen. If you like the concept, and the urban West Auckland location is acceptable to you, then we urge you to get involved. Doing so soon will ensure that you get to help shape your future home-this is what cohousing is all about. Another consideration is that choice of units is on a first come-first served basis. We simply can't guarantee that units will be left unsold once the project is built.
The process of assimilation into the group begins with attending an orientation evening. These are held regularly and are a good opportunity to find out more about the project. In addition, reading the Cohousing book is one of the most useful and important things that you can do at this stage, as it represents the foundation stone of what we are doing together. We do have a limited number of loan copies available, however, purchasing a copy is a worthwhile investment. It is a book that can be drawn on over and over again for inspiration and information (details over).
The next step is to be allocated a 'buddy' and attend a business meeting of the members. This is the simplest way for you to experience who we are, and how we work. This is not, however, a time for questions or comments as there is clearly a need to keep the project moving forward. You attend as an observer, although all offers of help with tasks are gratefully accepted!
Questions can be asked of your buddy after the meeting, on site visits and other outings. The minutes of past meetings, personal biographies and vision statements will be available to browse at meetings. In addition there are videos, tapes, and articles available to borrow.
After attending two meetings you can become an 'associate member'. This is basically a stepping stone to becoming a full member. By paying $100 you receive a personal copy of the resource file, a set of coloured cards, join a task group, and are then able to contribute toward decision making. Full membership involves a minimum investment (currently $2000 which becomes equity in your future home), and gives you a final say in decision making. In this way, the people making the decisions are the ones that live with the outcome of those decisions.
Residents will have freehold title to their homes, and the process of joining the neighbourhood is basically self-selection. Houses may be financed, bought and sold on the open market. The only screening mechanisms will be some covenants and/or bylaws that ensure new buyers are aware that they are buying more than a house.
Unit Title ownership allows residents, in addition to owning their units, to share legal ownership of common space and facilities.
Homes for sale in cohousing communities overseas are highly prized, and often have waiting lists to purchase. This results in good resale value.
For more information, phone one of our membership task group at left. We look forward to working with you, and to bringing this vision into reality.
Cohousing, A Contemporary Approach to Housing Ourselves, Second Edition, K. McCamant, C. Durrett, E.Hertzman, Ten Speed Press, Berkeley California, 1994
The Cohousing Handbook, C. Hansen, Hartley and Marks Vancouver, 1996
Introduction to Permaculture, B. Mollison, Tagari, Tyalgum, N.S.W. Australia, 1991
Eco-Villages and Sustainable Communities, Context Institute, WA USA 1994
The Natural House Book - Creating a Healthy Harmonious and Ecologically-sound Home Environment, D. Pearson, Simon & Schuster, New York, 1989.
Rebuilding Community in America—Housing for Ecological Living, Personal Empowerment, and the New Extended Family, K. Norwood, K. Smith, SLRC Berkeley, California, 1995
The Art of Facilitation, D. Hunter, A. Bailey, B. Taylor, Tandem Press, Auckland, 1994
Co-operacy, D. Hunter et al, Tandem Press Auckland 1997
Material from this booklet may be reproduced, with due acknowledgement to Earthsong Eco-Neighbourhood.
Our thanks go particularly to Katie McCamant and Chuck Durrett of the CoHousing Comapany USA for inspiration and guidance.
First printed March 1998, updated and reprinted
Contact pour HA: email@example.com