Rural Cohousing Projects
Why Choose Rural Cohousing
Ávila, especially in the southern region of Gredos, is an area in Spain with enormous natural potential and a magnificent climate. Such locations are ideal for groups of people (retirees, digital nomads, sustainable farmers, etc.) who can afford the luxury of living outside major cities. For them, rural cohousing¹ in the villages of the area is a very interesting option due to its physical and psychological benefits.
The Challenge of the Self-Sufficient Community³
The ideal model of rural cohousing should promote self-sufficiency and integration with nature. In addition to being more sustainable, self-sufficiency fosters an awareness of our impact on the planet that guides the community towards the common good. While in today’s globalized world, this is extremely challenging, it must be considered as one of the significant goals when designing the complex.
What Arquitectura Mínima considers when planning a cohousing
While each project is unique, when designing it, we collaborate with the clients who will be part of the community to address the following aspects:
Sustainable and healthy materials: We explore the inputs and outputs of physical resources, including estimating the carbon footprint, throughout the life cycle of the complex.
Designing with psychological and physical aspects in mind: We enhance the connection with nature and well-being in the community members due to the built environment.
Determining the minimum space required for the proper implementation of the community.
Costs and implementation timelines.
Corrective and compensatory measures for the negative impacts caused by the establishment and operation of the cohousing.
Quantifying these indicators is a complex yet essential long-term task. In Arquitectura Mínima, we propose a series of straightforward initiatives or advice that will guide us in orienting the design of the community.
How to design a self-sufficient community.
Reducing External Dependency
Both the communal space and the lifestyle of community members can be designed to reduce their environmental impact or even create a positive impact. The extent to which this is pursued should be decided by the community members, as severely reducing external dependency can potentially worsen quality of life. Typically, community members will prioritize a high quality of life, but this factor must be compatible with respect for nature.
To analyze the (positive or negative) environmental impacts we generate, it’s useful to separate them into three areas:
- Self-sufficiency of physical facilities for residents.
- Self-sufficiency in lifestyle, food, and consumption of shared resources and services.
- The impact on the community’s surroundings and the external environment. Sustainable businesses and green economy.
The first two areas focus on reducing the community’s external dependency. The third area seeks to determine the community’s positive influence on the external environment, both environmentally and socially, as these factors should always go hand in hand.
1. Self-sufficiency in Facilities for People
The design of the homes or modules depends on the number of individuals in each family unit. The recommended space is between 15 and 20 m² per person, so the available models range from 25 to 50 m² (depending on the preferences of the occupants). These models can be expanded if necessary. Regarding the construction method, AM recommends high-quality lightweight construction, preferably elevated to avoid interfering with the terrain, with a strong emphasis on insulation.
The habitable spaces should fulfill the following aspects:
- Use of low-impact materials whenever possible.
- Incorporation of bioclimatic architecture principles.
- Utilization of locally available resources.
- Providing privacy and tranquility for residents: The layout of the modules should allow interior views towards natural elements without interference from other structures.
- Single-story buildings to facilitate daily use for residents.
- Convenient access from the entrance to the communal space via walkways allowing the passage of single-person electric vehicles.
- Automation of environments to control air quality and temperature.
- Versatile and open spaces whenever possible.
2. Self-sufficiency in Lifestyle
3. Measures of Positive Impact on the Community Environment and Beyond
We can balance our impact with initiatives that support the environment where we are situated. These initiatives contribute to the well-being of the community, care for nature, respect biodiversity, and promote interaction with the urban core in which we are located.
There are countless possible initiatives, and it’s essential to have a deep understanding of the environment we are in. Some notable measures include:
- Building in developable urban land close to the urban core to avoid “taking away” more space from nature.
- Constructing buildings and facilities that are minimally intrusive to the ground, either elevated or underground.
- Creating spaces for nesting birds, reptiles, and other native animals.
- Practicing ecological cultivation, respecting soil rhythms, and using the minimum necessary space.
- Replanting with local tree species, particularly those that enhance biodiversity.
- Utilizing naturalistic landscaping to integrate with the environment.
- Establishing sustainable businesses within the community (extensive livestock farming, beekeeping, organic agriculture) that combine modern technology with local knowledge.
- Promoting sustainable businesses and collaboration with neighboring towns by supporting their products and demanding sustainable production practices.
By implementing these measures, a community can have a positive impact on its environment, enhancing biodiversity, and fostering sustainability throughout the region.
Terms of interest
1. Cohousing rural: A community formed by residents who have agreed to share a set of services and facilities along with their homes, governed by specific rules of coexistence. Typically, resident members share a common vision of the desired lifestyle, and the community is designed around their needs. The “rural” component refers to the community’s location in developable rural areas, integrated into a more natural setting.
2. Coliving: Refers to groups of individuals who share spaces within the same residence, often seeking to promote professional development by creating an entrepreneurial and cooperative work environment, akin to coworking.
3. Current context: We are in a stage known as the Anthropocene, characterized by the significant impact of human activity on Earth. According to the latest IPBES report, based on 15,000 scientific studies, we are currently experiencing the sixth mass extinction of species. Only 13% of the world’s wetlands are conserved, and 75% of terrestrial and 66% of marine environments are severely affected by human activities. Besides accelerated global warming due to human emissions, one in every four species is at risk of extinction, and our lifestyle results in the discharge of approximately 400 million tons of heavy metals, toxic sludge, and other waste into the oceans.
3. Self-sufficiency: A sometimes ambiguous concept. In a global village, complete self-sufficiency is often impractical without sacrificing important practical and psychological aspects. Current technologies allow us to optimize energy resources and increase productivity while living in a more realistic and appropriate manner. Therefore, we prefer to discuss reducing external dependence instead of absolute self-sufficiency.
Sustainability: The sustainability of a lifestyle essentially revolves around the balance of our impact on the environment being significantly lower or even positive. If we deplete resources from nature without allowing it to replenish, our lifestyle is unsustainable. Currently, humanity greatly exceeds nature’s capacity to regenerate resources, making our global lifestyle unsustainable in the long term.