June 2020

June was busy!

The first draft of a generalised project chart was completed. The overall structure was laid out according to the five streams (Group, Site, Plan, Build, Live) described by Community Led Housing. The Group stream was further informed by Cohousing UK’s snake diagram. The Plan stream was further informed by the Royal Institute of British Architects’ (RIBA’s) Plan of Work. The Build stream was further informed by BuildIt’s Self-build planner. The Group, Site and Plan streams were also further informed by the practical experience we have gained as a project.

This draft needs to be refined, and then the generalised plan tailored to fit our particular needs.

We’ve had a look at a couple of sites, one between Wolverhampton and Dudley (unfortunately directly under a pylon and high voltage lines) and the other between Northfield and the Lickey Hills (unfortunately without planning permission). These two might not pan out, but the experience of looking at the sites will help to get our eye in. ;o)

We’ve had an offer of help from a planning graduate who is interested in Cohousing schemes. They’ll be looking at how well the councils in the West Midlands Combined Authority (WMCA) are living up to their obligations under the Self-build and Custom Housebuilding Act 2015, and also helping us to craft a case to present to the WMCA, urging an initiative similar to that undertaken by Cherwell District Council at Graven Hill. This help is gratefully appreciated, and we wish them all the best in their subsequent career.

We had a social gathering over Zoom. Less than satisfactory, but it was nice to see people again.

One of us attended a seminar hosted by the National Self Build and Renovation Centre (NSBRC), which explored project management in the context of eco-friendly housing projects. The Greencore and Aereco contacts mentioned below came out of this seminar.

We’ve made initial contact with a couple of organisations, to gather ideas for forthcoming streams:

  • BuildStore, who provide mortgages for self-build projects, including larger projects such as ours (and ones that are even larger again).
  • Joint Contracts Tribunal, who provide standardised contracts for building projects of different types and sizes.
  • Greencore Construction, who supply Biond, pre-dried hempcrete Structural Insulated Panels (SIPs), a modern method of construction which allows buildings to be constructed in a lego fashion on site.
  • Aereco, who provide demand-controlled ventilation (DCV), which is another way to approach mechanical ventilation with heat recovery (MVHR). The two approaches do not appear to be mutually exclusive.

One of us attended two webinars hosted by units of the University of Wolverhampton. The first was put on by the Brownfield Research and Innovation Centre (BRIC), about being able to claim taxes back on moneys spent remediating brownfield sites. The second was put on by the Construction Futures Research Centre (CFRC) about the use of Virtual Reality in the construction industry. During this webinar we were pointed in the direction of FreeCAD as an aid to constructing a simplistic outline of possible buildings for the community, which could be used as input for rough estimates from construction technology companies, such as Briond and ModCell SIPs.

Published by CoHoWM

Cohousing West Midlands is (surprise) a cohousing project for the West Midlands! Cohousing is where everyone has their own front door, but there's also a community house for weekly shared meals and activities, and other shared spaces. More than a Housing Association, and less than a co-op!

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