New Members!

In early August 2020, Cirencester Cohousing (CirenCoHo) welcomed five new members, ranging in age from 21 to 84.  Each prospective member took a few minutes to share with others in the group their reasons for wanting to join a cohousing community and CirenCoHo in particular.  As each person did this they told a little of their life story.  One person described what she had gained from a previous experience of living in community and a desire to share her gifts and skills with others.   Several people spoke of personal loss and a desire for connection with others.  Another explained how the impact and isolation of lockdown had crystalised her decision to live as part of a community where neighbours have meaningful relationships and actively support each other rather than occasionally just nodding at each other in the street.  Listening to these accounts was very moving.  We were listening to individuals taking a risk in disclosing key experiences from their past and their hopes and longings for their future.  As the stories were told, I think we became more aware of ourselves:  listening and speaking, as a group of  varied people, trying to create a community in which we all feel we belong.  We became more aware of ourselves as an intentional community in which, despite our very real differences, rough edges and sensitivities we are feeling our way towards living in a way in which we respect and value each other and our planet.

Passivhaus and Ciren Coho

One of the most important requirements in our Client Brief is that our buildings – housing and common house – should be built to ‘passivhaus’ standard.

What is the passivhaus standard?

Passivhaus is a voluntary standard aimed at minimising energy use in buildings for space heating to greatly reduce their ecological footprint. To meet the Standard, a building must use less than 15 kWh/m2 of floor area per year for heating. This implies: a high level of insulation and air-tightness; the use of solar gain to provide heat; and minimal thermal bridging (gaps in the insulation).

Reaching the passivhaus standard requires very precise design by the architects, since they must be able to predict accurately the energy use of a building before it is built. The Passivhaus Trust, which maintains the Standard, provides a computer package (Passivhaus Planning Package or PHPP) which must be used in the design process, and this calculates estimates for energy use corresponding to the targets to be met. There are many computer packages and methods to estimate the energy use of buildings, but PHPP has been shown, across many projects, to provide very accurate estimates.

Why is it so important to our community?

It is important to us that our houses are very cheap to live in and have the same cost to heat in a year as a conventional house has in a month. We cannot assume that all our companions in the cohousing will be well-off and it would be immoral to build houses that swallow a high proportion of a limited income in energy costs.

It is important to us that our buildings use as little energy as possible so that we can generate a high proportion where we live using our own solar panels. This means that the energy use of our homes will be only a small demand on the National Grid to reduce our climate impact as far as possible.

It is important to us that our houses can be peaceful places – even if we choose to make some noise - and passivhauses are well-known for keeping out noise.