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Building a sustainable solution to loneliness

Two of the biggest challenges facing us post-Covid-19 are the climate and mental health crisises facing us after over a year of isolation and loneliness for many individuals.

A proposal to revitalise and reinvent Comiston Farmhouse, a historic Edinburgh property, aims to tackle both of these challenges head-on.

Currently, for sale by The City of Edinburgh Council, a local co-housing group, Co-Housing in Southern Scotland (CHOISS) is preparing to make a bid for the property. Their vision: to create a net-zero co-housing property.

The plot for sale includes a historic, old farmhouse and planning permission for new homes. The closing date is expected for the end of May. CHOISS believe that they can explore a new way of addressing the housing crisis, loneliness and build towards net-zero targets with this project.

Architect Dr Richard Atkins, who is working with CHOISS on the project, said: “Co-housing means people have their own homes - healthy, energy-efficient, accessible and stylish - but also access to shared areas to mix with other people when they choose. 
“Co-housing addresses the financial, environmental challenges of modern living - focusing very much on affordable, sustainable living in attractive homes within friendly communities. This project will also return Comiston Farmhouse to being an asset to the local community, and demonstrate that co-housing is affordable and replicable on a wide scale.”

Co-housing is already commonplace in other areas across mainland Europe and North America, and there are a handful of successful examples across the rest of the UK. For example, Lilac (Low Impact Living Affordable Community) is a flourishing community in Leeds that has been steadily growing since 2013.

A leaflet depicting the projectConnection through community

The project will have several common spaces and may include areas such as co-working areas, gardens, multi-use venues or laundry rooms. The layout and communal areas will encourage social interaction amongst residents.

Additionally, the group is intending to form a Mutual Home Ownership Society (MHOS), a legal structure that will support those on low incomes to buy into the project and remove speculation for profit.

Building with timber

The existing farmhouse will be repaired and retrofitted with an emphasis on using natural materials such as wood fibre insulation and clay plaster. The planned new homes will be largely constructed from CLT panels, and efforts will be made to ensure that products are sourced as locally as possible to keep embodied carbon costs down.  

By using more timber in construction, the development will be helping to reduce CO­2 emissions through the storage of CO2 ­in its structure and by replacing other CO2-intensive materials that may have been used. In addition to using low-carbon materials, the design also allows for properties to be powered by renewable energy sources, such as solar panels.

You can learn more about how using timber in construction can help reduce CO2 emissions through Wood CO2ts less.  

What’s Next?

The Comiston Co-housing group hopes the City of Edinburgh Council and Scottish Government will accept their bid to purchase Comiston Farmhouse, providing an opportunity for Edinburgh citizens to explore a new way of addressing the serious housing crisis, working towards net-zero targets and promoting healthy communities.

Anyone interested in becoming a pioneer resident or a project supporter can contact info@comiston.org or visit the project's webpage.

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