strong neighbourhood communities
The support of close relationships creates a happy life. It's an age-old wisdom now proven by scientific research. A support network is strongest when these relationships extend beyond the small nuclear family and are present and easily accessible in a person’s day to day life - something that's sorely missing in urban communities. Developing bonds within the community around one's home happened very naturally a couple of generations ago, but over the years, the design of our housing has created obstacles to human connections.
Current en masse suburban subdivisions and high-rise buildings are a poor model for community building. Contrasting this is people-centric housing design that clusters homes around hubs of communal life - a shared central garden, a courtyard or a common house. The designs are intentional in increasing opportunities for social interactions.
Taking inspiration from the Cohousing model and the work of Ross Chapin on pocket neighbourhoods, people-centric housing has these key characteristics beyond the inclusion and inviting design of shared spaces:
- The shared spaces are located such that people are certain to encounter them as they walk from the complex entrance to their homes.
- Active rooms of homes - such as kitchens - are oriented to look onto the gardens and any activity happening there, enticing people to participate.
- Cars are kept at bay with parking at the perimeter so the complex grounds are completely pedestrian.
- A large communal kitchen in the common house (in addition to in-home private kitchens) provides the opportunity for shared meals a few times a week
A strong communal life within a housing development also results in benefits such as help with child care and the trading of skills and resources.
Through proper design, interactions can be made easier while at the same time giving equal importance to the need for privacy. Community members become sensitive to, and respect, another’s desire for privacy.
beauty as a basic service
A critical aspect of wellbeing focused housing is design that allows people to experience beauty on a daily basis, both in the form of natural beauty as well as through the aesthetics of the built environment.
Being close to nature has the power to positively impact all aspects of a person's health, and being deprived of nature has equal power for negative impact. Sadly, urban apartment buildings in particular offer scant chance to grow gardens.
Single unit houses may have more outdoor space, but suburban single lot homes are unsustainable. Furthermore, large and varied flower and vegetable gardens are easier to create when taken on as joint projects.
To allow for extensive gardens, a developer must put faith back in a community's desire and ability to maintain shared greenspaces. Efforts vary when residents take on the upkeep of the commons, but communities usually reach solutions that work for everyone.
In addition to nature, the materials and colours used for creating the homes can add warmth to the overall space and make it feel welcoming.
Using reclaimed materials in construction, preserving the bio-diversity of a sensitive region, creating something beautiful on an undesirable site, restoring land health, incorporating renewable energy sources, using green-roofs, creating more compact homes, using natural and non-toxic building materials - all are examples of being more environmentally responsible. The potential is particular to each development site and the care and creativity applied by the developer.