Thursday, July 30, 2009

Quayside Cohousing, North Vancouver

I just visited another cohousing project this morning, making use of the super efficient seabus (the heat still got me, though). Resident, Elizabeth Kewin, gave me a tour. The more cohousing projects I visit, the more I want to be a part of one. Photo not by me but standby until I can download mine

Quayside, several blocks up from Lonsdale Quay and the harbour in North Vancouver, seemed particularly cohesive, with generous and diverse common spaces, a vibrant garden and very rigourous community recycling of everything. With a mix of cultures, household types and ages ranging from not-yet-born to 78, it's an ideal example of diversity that makes cohousing so rich.

Quayside has been lived in since 1998, after several years of forming the group and development, and has a long waiting list of hopeful future residents. Designed by The Courtyard Group, there are 19 residential units, ranging from a studio flat to 3 bedroom 2-story townhouses and a commercial space rented as a convenience store. 4 homes were (and will continue to be through a covenant) sold at 20% the market rate to enable lower income people to be a part of the project. Ownership of each unit is through strata title with contributions to the gardening fund, cleaning of common areas (once a week by lady)

Environmentally, the complex recycles all its greywater, for reuse in toilets and on the garden, rainwater is collected for irrigation, food is grown in private gardens, the courtyard and on the street. It is close to the Seabus, a fast link with Vancouver's CBD, has a library, shops, hospital, community centres and markets within easy (hilly) walking distance.

Cooking and heating is with efficient gas appliances and light fittings were chosen for their efficiency. Many homes have recycled hardwood floors and timber doors from the building formerly on the site and most units have incredible views of the harbour with good natural light. Stained glass windows were also saved from the earlier building and have been incorporated into the Common areas.

The common areas are much larger than those provided by conventional apartments - 2500 square metres is filled with:
  • Foyer and entry - notice boards, mailboxes, central fireplace and book exchange with inviting comfy seats and view to courtyard.
  • Kitchen - used for communal meals twice a month except in the 2 months of summer, also used for meetings, parties and social events. Some people cook, others prefer to wash dishes or do other kitchen chores. People pay for the common meal (nominally $4 each) to cover costs of ingredients
  • Guest room - used for short or long stays with a financial contribution by the guest (around $10 per night)
  • Bathroom - used by guests and people using the common areas, including clients visiting the common office space.
  • Office space - this is shared by several residents and once a week is a midwife's (resident) clinic, bringing in women from the wider community
  • Laundry - industrial washers and driers, drying racks and storage of detergents. Also several shelves of give-away things too good for recycling. These are left for 2 weeks before being taken to the local op shop
  • Children's play area and tv space
  • Courtyard - sunny leafy place with communal herb garden, fish pond and external stairs to upper floors. In the summer, this is where some shared meals are enjoyed, with a bbq
  • Dome deck and dome room - a rooftop space on the corner of the block with great views. Lots of potted vegies. The dome room is available for music practice, yoga, meditation or just relaxing.
  • Underground parking - not all own cars and this space also houses the greywater recycling plant and the extensive recycling bins
  • Gardens - these are cared for in a very casual manner by various residents and worthily have won a sustainable garden award. All houses share one compost system at the north of the block.
Some things that residents would like to see in this or other cohousing projects:
  • Big common store room - for fire reasons, storage is limited in the basement carpark
  • Main level bathroom to be wheelchair accessible
  • 2 types of work spaces - quiet office and consultation and computer and crafty space where noise and mess is ok

Here is a bit more information if you're curious

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