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Permaculture and Community: LILAC Green Co-housing

("Low-Impact Living, Affordable Community")

LILAC (“low-impact living, affordable community”) cohousing has been built on an old school ground in the suburbs with energy-efficient buildings. The place is high density—three-quarters of a hectare, with 50 people living on it—but has been developed to provide housing for lots of people living and working with the same ethics. The site came about from a conversation between two couples, wishing to have a community to live in and bring up families.

The buildings are constructed of pre-formed, straw bale panels that are framed out in wood, stuffed with straw, and plastered in lime. They provide an airtight method in conjunction with triple-glazing.

There is mechanical ventilation with heat recovery to make the energy system even more efficient. Apartments are purposely small for eco-living, but there is plenty of communal space to be shared, i.e. there is no need to have a big house. Consequently, utility bills are roughly a quarter of those of a typical home in the same area.

Aside from homes, there is a common laundry, kitchen and meeting area. Shared gardens are throughout the development, and there are also areas for people to grow their own food. The gardens are meant to provide fresh food, wildlife habitat, and biodiversity. The rooftops catch water for the gardens and fill a pond in the garden, eliminating any issues of causing flooding issues.

The development started with capital up front, government grant, and a mortgage from an ethical lender. It’s fully occupied with a, now closed, waiting list. Now, it is funded by mutual homeownership in which a cooperative owns everything and members on shares rather than homes. The shares correlate to income level and house size. This creates affordable housing for people with low incomes.

The first step to create a shared vision and continually bring people in and involve them in a meaningful way. The vision attracts people, but they need to become invested themselves as well.

Key Takeaways:

• LILAC is a development built on an old school ground in the suburbs using ethical practices.

• Buildings are constructed of ecologically friendly, pre-fabricated straw bale panels, which, with triple glazing and heat recovery ventilation—add in creating an efficient energy system.

• Apartments are small, but there are many—kitchen, laundry, gardens—community spaces to enjoy.

• Mutual homeownership is a method of funding in which a cooperative owns homes and residents own shares, paying rent based on income and personal living space.

• The first step to creating this type of development is to create a shared vision. Then, new members need to be added and given real roles to play.

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Geoff Lawton

Geoff Lawton is a world renowned Permaculture consultant, designer and teacher. He first took his Permaculture Design Certificate (PDC) Course in 1983 with Bill Mollison the founder of Permaculture. Geoff has undertaken thousands of jobs teaching, consulting, designing, administering and implementing, in 6 continents and close to 50 countries around the world. Clients have included private individuals, groups, communities, governments, aid organizations, non-government organisations and multinational companies under the not-for-profit organisation. In 1996 Geoff was accredited with the Permaculture Community Services Award by the Permaculture movement for services in Australia and around the world. Geoff's official website is GeoffLawtonOnline.com. Geoff's Facebook profile can be found here.

One Comment

  1. What an amazing post, Geoff! I want this too for my life!

    I want to be able to initiate this kind of project as well, only because of the few of us who know that this is a possibility, how many of us will actually make it a reality?

    Thank you so much for sharing this particular “vision” and for all your untiring generous work at PRI!

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