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In this article we examine aspects of the different arguments for the environmental advantages of co-housing compared with individual households. The analysis is structured around four main questions, which are argued to be decisive for the question of co-housing and sustainability. The first is whether co-housing offers better opportunities for choosing and using more sustainable technologies, which also relates to the question of whether co-housing offers better opportunities for building smaller and denser and thus more energy efficient buildings. The second and third questions are socially oriented; one relates to the claim that co-housing can support pro-environmental behaviour among residents as they can support each other's norms and practices. The fourth and last claim relates to a discussion of co-housing as a more sustainable opportunity especially for people living alone, as the growing number of small households is an emerging sustainability problem. The empirical analyses are based on the results from a Danish study of eco-villages including a survey, interviews with representatives of the eco-village movement and a detailed case study of a group of people in the process of establishing a new cluster in an existing eco-village. The aim of the article is to contribute to the general discussions about co-housing and sustainability. The study adds nuances to this discussion and shows that the answer is not as straightforward as presented in much of the literature.
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that sustainability is not only a ma er of
environmental sustainability, but also of eco-
nomic and social sustainability (e.g. Berg-
man et al., 2007; Crabtree, 2005; Maher and
McIntosh, 2007; Williams, 2005). While recog-
nizing the importance of all these aspects,
in this paper we focus on environmental
sustainability. Our aim is to inform the general
discussions on co-housing and sustainability
on the basis of a Danish case study of eco-
Sustainable buildings and housing are
contested terms including both grassroots-
driven holistic and context-based understand-
The aim of this paper is to discuss to what
extent and how co-housing can provide
solutions to sustainable housing. The paper
thus discusses the widely held view that
co-housing can o er answers to a range of
problems facing modern societies including
alienation, social isolation and sustainable
living (see, for instance, Abraham and deLa-
Grange, 2006; Assadourian, 2008; Lietaert,
2010; Maher and McIntosh, 2007; Meltzer,
2010; Torres-Antonini, 2006; Widener, 2010;
Williams, 2005, 2007, 2008). Following the
1987 UN Brundtland Commission report Our
Common Future, several authors emphasize
Sustainable Living and Co-Housing:
Evidence from a Case Study
of Eco-Villages
In this article we examine aspects of the different arguments for the environmental
advantages of co-housing compared with individual households. The analysis is
structured around four main questions, which are argued to be decisive for the
question of co-housing and sustainability. The first is whether co-housing offers
better opportunities for choosing and using more sustainable technologies, which
also relates to the question of whether co-housing offers better opportunities for
building smaller and denser and thus more energy efficient buildings. The second
and third questions are socially oriented; one relates to the claim that co-housing
can support pro-environmental behaviour among residents as they can support
each other’s norms and practices. The fourth and last claim relates to a discussion
of co-housing as a more sustainable opportunity especially for people living alone,
as the growing number of small households is an emerging sustainability problem.
The empirical analyses are based on the results from a Danish study of eco-villages
including a survey, interviews with representatives of the eco-village movement
and a detailed case study of a group of people in the process of establishing a new
cluster in an existing eco-village. The aim of the article is to contribute to the
general discussions about co-housing and sustainability. The study adds nuances to
this discussion and shows that the answer is not as straightforward as presented in
much of the literature.
Arguments for Co-Housing
and Sustainability
When discussing the environmental sus-
tainability of co-housing, it is important to
focus on the in uence of the technological
structures as well as the routines and practices
of everyday life. With regard to the tech-
nological structures, the literature on co-
housing typically highlights two aspects in
which co-housing can be expected to be more
environmentally sustainable than other forms
of housing, namely the adoption of more
sustainable technologies and the reduction
of oor space consumption. The rst aspect
relates to the assumption that the social
organization of co-housing makes it more
likely that environmentally friendly ‘alterna-
tive’ technologies will be employed. For
instance, in an article in Cohousing – The
Journal of the CoHousing Network published
by the Cohousing Association of the United
States, Coldham (1995) writes that the
principal contribution of co-housing to a
sustainable society is that it ‘o ers another
scale of social organization – an intermediate
scale between the single family and the town
or municipality – thereby expanding the
pale e of technologies that can be applied’
(here from Meltzer, 2005, p. 15). Similarly,
Williams (2005) notes that high levels of
social capital in co-housing can ease the
implementing of environmental schemes (see
also Meltzer, 2000).
The second argument for co-housing and
sustainability related to technological struc-
ture is the assumption that co-housing com-
munities are generally denser and take up less
space in total per resident than other housing:
‘Instead of spreading out houses, co-housing
communities group homes together, enabling
them to preserve more land as open space or
farmland and to facilitate community con-
nections by having neighbors within walking
distance’ (Assadourian, 2008, p. 154). Also, if
built as terraced or semi-detached houses,
energy consumption is reduced by minimiz-
ing heat loss from external walls. Graham
ings as well as top-down and expert-based
approaches (Jensen and Gram-Hanssen,
2008). This plurality covers a range of differ-
ent concepts based on technological, social,
aesthetic, commercial, and health issues (Guy
and Farmer, 2001; Guy and Osborne, 2001;
Guy and Moore, 2005; Dammann and Elle,
2006). Among these different approaches to
sustainability issues within the housing sector
there is, however, also agreement on many
issues and goals, including, but not limited to,
reduced energy consumption and renewable
energy production (e.g. local energy pro-
duction), lower resource consumption as well
as recycling of materials and water.
In recent years, with climate change and
CO2 emissions high on the political agenda,
energy issues especially have been in focus
in the field of sustainable housing. Housing
does play a major role in mitigating climate
change, since in most European countries
approximately one-third of all energy is
used directly in the housing sector with
another third for transport (Eurostat, 2011).
Reduction in energy consumption related to
housing can be attained in different ways,
including improved energy efficiency of
buildings and appliances as well as better
location of buildings in relation to transport.
Research, however, documents that efficient
technologies are only part of the answer to
sustainability as the everyday routines of
householders are as important as the physical
and technical design (Gram-Hanssen, 2011).
In the following, we present first a brief
review of the literature on co-housing and
sustainability, including arguments about
how co-housing can provide sustainable
solutions as well as studies measuring the
actual sustainability of co-housing. Next, the
empirical material and methodology of the
article are presented. In the analysis section,
the empirical material is discussed in relation
to four main arguments for sustainability
within co-housing, and in the discussion
and conclusion we summarize the problems
and potentials of co-housing as sustainable
the individual’s commitment to sustainable
practices such as garbage sorting, using less
heat and hot water, using a clothesline instead
of a tumble dryer etc. People not living in a
community might in theory have similar
routines, but several studies show that even
though a large proportion of people intend
to live a more sustainable everyday life, few
realize their ideals in practice (Beattie and
Sale, 2009; Munasinghe et al., 2009). Thus, the
co-housing format, it is argued, may make
a great difference by helping residents to
follow their own ideals in practice.
Finally, and in addition to the more
classical arguments for co-housing above,
when discussing housing and sustainability,
there is a question of household size, as
it is documented that it is in general more
energy and resource efficient to live more
people together (Gram-Hanssen et al., 2009;
Williams, 2007). As pointed out by Williams
(2007), the relative sustainability advantage
of moving into co-housing is bigger for
smaller households, i.e. one- or two-person
households, as these have in general a higher
level of energy consumption per person
compared with larger households. Hence,
for co-housing to realize its full potential, it
is necessary that this form of housing can be
shown to be attractive to small households.
This is even more important as the decline
in household size and the increasing number
of people living alone is a general trend
found in most Western countries (Hall et al.,
1997; Jamieson et al,, 2009). A recent study of
Danish households documents that almost
40 per cent of all households in 2008 were
occupied by only one person and that the
number of one-person households is growing
(Gram-Hanssen et al., 2009). It was also found
that the growth in one-person households
is particularly related to the group of
people aged between 30 and 60. Hence, the
sustainability potential of co-housing will
increase markedly if co-housing shows itself
to be able to attract these households.
To sum up, the arguments that co-housing
can play a vital role for the sustainability of
Meltzer points out that these advantages can
be realized more fully in co-housing com-
munities than in ordinary single-family hous-
ing, since the social connections among resi-
dents enable them to tolerate a higher density
(Meltzer, 2005). In addition to being closer
together, the size of the individual dwelling
is generally expected to be smaller than in
other types of housing, because relatively
rarely used functions such as guest rooms,
hobby rooms and laundry rooms are shared
(Williams, 2008). Reducing the heated floor
space per person is important, as small
houses in general consume less energy than
large houses as well as taking up less land
and requiring fewer resources in the building
process (Meltzer, 2005; Wilson and Boehland,
With regard to routines and practices,
the co-housing literature indicates that co-
housing can be expected to be more environ-
mentally sustainable because of the prefer-
ence for sustainable everyday routines among
residents. As mentioned earlier, technology
alone does not guarantee sustainability. In
the absence of sustainable practices, the
energy savings gained by new technologies
may simply be converted to increased con-
sumption standards or more appliances
(Gram-Hanssen, 2011). Does co-housing,
then, support sustainable practices in daily
life, once the houses are built and the
technologies installed? Many authors think
so: ‘… cohousing can be transformative by
not only providing an eco-friendly physical
setting, but also a social context in which
pro-environmental attitudes are fostered and
perpetuated’, writes Torres-Antonini (2006, p.
40), and Williams (2005, 2008) points out that
co-housing encourages pro-environmental
behaviour in two ways. Firstly, the co-housing
format (physical proximity and high levels
of social capital) enables resource sharing
in ways that are not so easily available to
non-community residents. Examples include
carpools, tool banks, organic gardening
etc. Secondly, living in a community with
strong pro-environmental norms reinforces
buildings are purpose built for the com-
munity or are existing buildings that have
been retrofitted (see for instance Harmaajärvi,
2000; Mulder et al., 2006; Williams, 2007). It
could thus be argued that environmental
evaluations should only compare co-housing
with similar types of ordinary housing (e.g.
rural co-housing with other rural housing
and newly built co-housing with other newly
built housing). An evaluation of a newly
built Danish eco-village compares energy
consumption with the energy requirements
for new buildings according to the Danish
Building Regulations (Foldager and Dyck-
Madsen, 2002). The evaluation shows large
variations between the individual house-
holds in the eco-village and that the eco-
village on average consumes more energy
than stipulated in the Danish Building
Regulations. This eco-village thus shows
the same pattern as most other new Danish
buildings, which also show big variations
between families living in identical buildings
and with new buildings having higher energy
consumption than expected (Kristensen et al.,
Thus, it is important to note that co-
housing covers a wide range of different settle-
ments, ranging from city/high-density co-
housing, sometimes urban regeneration or
brownfield developments, to eco-villages
most often located in rural areas and new con-
structions. It is apparent that the potential for
environmental sustainability varies widely
between these types of settlements. In this
article, we do not go further into the question
of the environmental performance of co-
housing and how to measure and quantify
this. Instead, we discuss the four previous
claims of co-housing’s potential for more
sustainable housing. Our aim is twofold:
on one hand we would like to question the
widespread assumption of co-housing being
more sustainable than most other forms of
housing, and on the other hand we would
like to discuss how co-housing could be more
sustainable and its potential role in relation to
sustainable housing.
future housing rests on four claims of the
relative advantages of co-housing compared
with other types of housing:
more sustainable technologies built into
smaller and more compact houses;
pro-environmental behaviour of residents;
environmental advantages for one- and
two-person households.
The above discussion points to a number of
potential sustainability benefits of co-housing.
However, relatively few studies have been
made so far on the actual measurable environ-
mental performance of co-housing (includ-
ing eco-villages), and those that exist show
ambiguous results. A Finnish study compar-
ing eco-villages with conventional detached
urban housing thus concludes that eco-
villages have higher CO2 emissions when
including construction, use and transporta-
tion in the analyses (Harmaajärvi, 2000). A
Nordic study compared different types of
eco-housing, some of which are co-housing,
on selected indicators such as energy con-
sumption, water consumption, waste produc-
tion etc. The eco-houses were compared with
each other and for some of the indicators also
with similar data from average detached
houses and apartment buildings. The
study shows a quite varied picture (Bech-
Danielsen et al., 1997). Some of the co-housing
settlements in this study do show a better
environmental performance on some of
the indicators; however, the results are not
unambiguously in favour of co-housing,
especially not compared with average apart-
ment buildings. In general, studies show that
the realization of the sustainability potential
of co-housing depends on a range of factors,
not least location, since this to a large degree
determines whether residents use cars or
public transport. Rural communities are often
heavily dependent on cars, except the few
cases where most residents have managed
to get work in the community or its vicinity.
Other important features are whether the
this paper, eco-villages can thus be seen as
a critical case because they can be expected
to be more sustainable than other types of
co-housing communities in regard to both
the material structures (choice of sustainable
technologies, smaller houses) and the routines
and practices (encouraging pro-environmental
behaviour). We use the term ‘critical case’
in the same way that Flyvbjerg (2006) does,
meaning that if this case of co-housing does
not provide evidence of sustainability, it is
unlikely that other types of co-housing will
do so.
The case study included participant observa-
tions of the group of persons planning to
establish a new cluster of twelve households
in an existing eco-village. The advantages
of observing the group in the early stages
included that the discussions and choices
became visible, making it apparent that the
final layout of the eco-village was not an
inevitable or natural outcome, but rather
the result of complex processes. The eco-
village studied was a relatively large commun-
ity consisting at the time of study of five
clusters, each home to about twenty adults
and a number of children (both the eco-
village and the participants have been anony-
mized). In addition, two more clusters were
in progress at the time of the study. The
clusters included various forms of ownership:
two were privately owned detached or semi-
detached houses, two were publicly rented
terraced houses and one was a cooperative
(also terraced houses). The prospective
residents of one of the new clusters, Cluster
7, decided to work with a design built around
twelve privately owned detached houses.
During the observation period, the group
consisted of twenty-two adults: seven two-
parent families with one or more children
at home, one single-parent family with one
child, three couples with no children and
one single male. The group met monthly
in order to decide a wide range of issues in
preparation for the actual construction work.
Meetings were followed during 9 months.
The researcher was present at all meetings,
Methods and Data
The discussion in this article is based on
the empirical material from a PhD study
on eco-villages in Denmark (Marckmann,
2009). This study includes a case study of
a group of individuals working to establish
a new residential cluster in an existing
eco-village, a survey among 506 residents
in eighteen Danish eco-villages, and four
expert interviews with key persons related
to the Danish eco-village movement. This
article is not a summary of the PhD study or
of its main conclusions, but rather a reuse of
some of the empirical material related to the
speci c questions raised in this article.
Drawing on a study of Danish eco-villages
in order to make more general conclusions
about the potential of co-housing raises the
question of how these eco-villages can be
expected to differ from other co-housing com-
munities. On one hand, eco-villages can be
considered to be a subgroup of co-housing.
Thus, most of the Danish eco-villages in this
study fitted into the category of co-housing
as defined by McCamant et al., (1993) in their
study on Danish co-housing. This relates
specifically to the following six criteria: (1)
participatory processes; (2) neighbourhood
design; (3) common facilities; (4) resident
management; (5) non-hierarchical structure
and decision-making; and finally (6) no
shared community economy (see also
Williams, 2005). Apart from two special cases
(one without neighbourhood design and one
with a strong shared-economy component),
all eco-villages included in the survey qualify
as co-housing communities according to
these criteria.
On the other hand, eco-villages can in some
respects also be considered a special subset
of co-housing communities as they have a
greater focus on sustainable living compared
with other co-housing communities (Elm and
Dilling-Hansen, 2003; Marckmann, 2009;
Meltzer, 2010). This means that they are likely
to attract people with a more explicit com-
mitment to green living. In the context of
The main reason for this is that the size of
the dwellings and the choice of sustainable
technologies are to, a large extent, determined
in the initial discussions of the establishment
phase of a new community (like Cluster 7).
The survey of residents in Danish eco-
villages is mainly used in the discussion
of the third and fourth claims, i.e. whether
co-housing encourages pro-environmental
but did not participate in the discussions. The
meetings were recorded on video for later
In this paper, the data from the
observations are mainly used to show how
sustainability is negotiated in the group and
in this connection to discuss the first two
sustainability claims: choice of sustainable
technologies and smaller housing size.
Figure 1.Map of the east end
of the eco-village. The area
outlined is the projected new
Figure 2:The ‘Conch House’
in the ecovillage Fri & Fro,
Denmark. (Photo courtesy of:
Sustainable Technologies
In those communities inspired by the ideas
behind the eco-village movement, a lot of
focus has been on selecting and using sustain-
able and sometimes experimental technolo-
gies such as solar heating, solar power, Fin-
nish mass ovens, alternative wastewater tech-
nologies etc. (Marckmann, 2009). Compared
with other co-housing communities, eco-
villages a ract more people interested in
building their own houses and working
with experimental technology solutions such
as composting toilets. Since the decisions
about which technologies to opt for have to
be made early in the construction process,
it is understandable that they are given a
lot of a ention by prospective co-housing
residents (like in Cluster 7). However, what
does it mean for a technology to be con-
sidered ‘sustainable’? The following examples
from the meetings in Cluster 7 show the
importance related to the choice of tech-
nologies by a group of prospective eco-
villagers as well as the di culties they faced
in negotiating criteria for sustainability.
According to the bylaws of the eco-village,
all houses had to be equipped with solar
panels for hot water supply, but for the winter
months a source of supplementary heating
was needed. The existing eco-village had
established a collective central heating known
as the ‘Energy Central’ supplying a number
of housing units with district heating from
locally sourced wood chips. The members of
Cluster 7 had several options open to them:
they could choose to join the Energy Central
collectively; some houses could join while
others could establish individual solutions; all
could establish individual solutions; or they
could establish a new collective solution of
their own. The group agreed that irrespective
of the source of the heat, all houses needed
to conform to certain energy standards,
meaning that they would need a relatively
small amount of energy for heating.
The topic of heating technologies was dis-
cussed at length at four consecutive meetings.
behaviour and whether co-housing attracts
one- and two-person households. As men-
tioned above, the survey was not designed
to throw light on the sustainability of the
eco-villages, since the main focus was the
social relations in the eco-villages. However,
some respondents did bring up the topic
of sustainable practices in their answers to
open questions about the main advantages
and disadvantages of living in eco-villages.
For this reason, the survey data in this article
is only used to establish the socio-economic
composition of the population (below), and as
a source of state ments about the importance
of community living for mutual support of
sustainable practices.
The survey shows a predominance of well-
educated, middle-class, ethnic Danes in the
eco-villages (Marckmann, 2009). This is unsur-
prising in the light of comparable data from
other countries. For instance, Graham Meltzer
(2005) finds that co-housing residents in North
America are predominantly white, middle-
class, well-educated professionals, 80 per cent
of whom have a college degree compared
with 30 per cent in the population (see also
Williams, 2005). A similar trend is found
in the Danish eco-villages with 72 per cent
having 4 years or more of tertiary education
compared with 23 per cent of Danes in
general (Marckmann, 2009). The members of
Cluster 7 were no exception to this rule.
Sustainability Advantages of Co-Housing
In the following, we examine the four main
arguments for co-housing being more sustain-
able than ordinary housing: that co-housing
communities are more able and willing to
implement sustainable technologies; that co-
housing communities enable residents to
accept less individual living space; that the
social structure of co-housing facilitates
sustainable everyday practices of the resi-
dents; and nally, that co-housing can be a
solution to the environmental challenges of
smaller households by a racting one- and
two-person households.
containers, and trucks coming up to every house
with wood chips? It’s a choice we have to make.
(45 year old male, organic farmer, married, 4 children)
David:People should be aware that if we join
the Energy Central then we also join the 24 hour
rotation, so the alarm might ring in the middle of
the night if the burner stops working. It’s a lot of
work to keep that going.
As the discussion progressed, more and
more criteria were made relevant to the choice
of heating source: efficiency, emissions, con-
venience, fun, consequences for the design
and day-to-day use of the area (providing
for individual delivery and storage of fuel
could have design implications as well as
compromise the principle of no vehicles
beyond the parking lot). Everybody agreed
that all solutions, whether individual or col-
lective, must be justifiable from a sustain-
ability perspective. However, the definition
of sustainability proved elusive:
Olga:It is important to get it out in the open if
some people don’t think we’re being ambitious
enough. (35 year old female, educator, married, no
Hans: When I think sustainable, I’m mainly
worried about the electricity-based solutions like
heat pumps of various kinds… Do we accept
those kinds of solutions? That’s a principle at
stake. (40 year old male, engineer, married, one child)
Claus: Well, a few years ago heat pumps were
banned because they use a lot of electricity, which
is based on coal, and it still is, but I think it can be
discussed. Now we have a lot of wind turbines,
and that’s a different perspective. On the other
hand, wood stoves emit a whole lot of particles
if it is not used in the right way. (45 year old male,
joiner, in a relationship, no children)
Svend: I thought wood was carbon neutral? (35
year old male, teacher, married, one child)
Claus: That’s a different issue, there’s the question
of carbon, wood is carbon neutral, all biofuel is,
but it’s a question of particle emissions…
David: We’re comparing apples and pears and
oranges here. (45 year old male, biologist, single, one
At these meetings, the topic took up 30–90
minutes of a typical three-hour meeting. No
final decision was reached before the end of
the observation period. The first important
question raised was one of individual versus
collective solutions:
David:The principle under discussion here is
whether one wants an individual or a collective
heating supply. I can only say, we have the heating
in [Eco-village], supposedly built a er the rules,
and we have about 30 per cent heating lost in the
ground, in the pipes, so that 30 per cent of the
heating we pay for is used to keep the ground
warm. And I think this is an argument against
drawing the pipes an even greater distance… We
have to heat the pipes in the ground, but since the
pipes are less well-insulated than the houses, the
water loses heat while in the pipes, in the ground.
(45 year old male, biologist, single, one child)
Claus:This guy, you know who he is, he edits this
journal of bioenergy … he didn’t believe it… He
didn’t believe that we could do be er by going
individual … he said that the small furnaces
pollute more than the big furnaces. That’s what
he said. (45 year old male, joiner, in a relationship,
no children)
David:Another thing, I think that [Eco-village]
is a place where we ought to have room for
experiments, people should be allowed to
experiment… I really think it would be a pity,
instead of joining the public monopoly we just
turn our own Energy Central into a monopoly,
force people to join that… I don’t like those
central solutions. I don’t like to be tied up to
people’s expectations about cost, and then it turns
out to be more expensive a er all… I want to try
something like passive solar heating and maybe
biogas, maybe a stoker, I want to experiment with
my energy… I don’t think I learn anything from
just turning on a tap in the utility room. I think it
would be more fun to create an individual heating
Lars:What is our motivation, is it the economic
or the environment that counts here? I don’t have
the answer… OK, we have some heat loss, but
Allan [responsible for Energy Central] showed
me this huge book wri en by [a rm of consulting
engineers] showing that individual furnaces emit
a whole lot more carbon… So how do we weigh
these things against each other?… Another thing
is, what do we want, do we need to make room
to deliver coal or have individual heating oil
Claus: It is good to just get the thought on the
table, there’s some economy in semi-detached
houses too. (45 year old male, joiner, in a
relationship, no children)
Nothing more was said about semi-
detached or other compact housing types
during the observation period. The environ-
mental consequences of house size were
not mentioned at all. This was remarkable,
since discussions such as the one about heat-
ing sources showed that the members of
the group were well able to challenge each
other on grounds of sustainability in other
contexts. The following is an excerpt from the
meeting where each family presented their
ideas about their future home. The sizes of
the floor space mentioned can be compared
with the average size of Danish single-family
houses of that period, which were 140 m2 for
all houses and 155 m2 for new houses.
First those wanting small houses:
Birgit: The project we’re working on is 80–90 m2,
because we don’t want to build big, also so we
don’t block the view for those in the back row.
(45 year old female, landscape architect, married, no
Olga: We want a tiny house of 75–80 m2 … and it
will be really simple with a living room/kitchen,
bedroom, bathroom and hallway, that’s really
functional from what we have found out over
the years, really simple. That’s how we like it,
so we’re not compromising in any way, that’s
just how we like it. (35 year old female, educator,
married, no children)
Anders: I’ll start out with a prefab office pavilion
here and then I’ll begin building my house, about
40 m2 to begin with. I want to build it myself
and then add to it along the way, when I need it,
instead of saddling myself with huge expenses
from the start. (45 year old male, musician, single)
The reasons given for building small houses
vary from consideration for others over per-
sonal taste to economic considerations. How-
ever, the sustainability theme is not men-
tioned. Nor is it mentioned by any of the
families wanting large houses:
Else: Apart from that, we need to have room for
our three kids, so we’re thinking of a house about
Although the group did not succeed in
making a final decision during the observa-
tion period, it did not mean that nothing
was achieved. Maybe most importantly, the
group made advances towards a working
definition of sustainability. Sustainability
turned out to be not a self-evident quality,
but open to negotiation (cf. Godard, 2007).
In this context, it was mainly connected with
efficiency, carbon emissions and particle
emissions, but also connected with aspects of
aesthetics and social relations and landscape
planning. The group did not (and probably
could not) establish a final, positive definition
of sustainability, but did establish a series of
negative definitions: sustainable technologies
must be carbon neutral, must not pollute,
must not be wasteful etc.
Small and Compact Houses
The high density and high space e ciency
of co-housing communities are perhaps
their most important advantage in relation
to environmental sustainability. However,
these are also qualities that are not easily
compatible with widespread cultural ideals
of large dwelling spaces. The following
excerpts from the meetings in Cluster 7 show
that even in a group commi ed to the ideal of
sustainable living it can be hard to challenge
others’ ideas of the ‘dream house’. Prior to the
observation period, the members of Cluster
7 had already decided that they wanted to
build individual, single detached houses, i.e.
not terraced or semi-detached houses.
Minna: Would anybody consider building semi-
detached houses? (30 year old female, PR-
consultant, in a relationship, two children)
David: Well, that’s what Cluster 1 did. The advan-
tage of semi-detached houses is that the outside
area seems bigger, and you save a bit on the
heating. (45 year old male, biologist, single, one child)
Birgit: The way I read the group right now, that’s
not where people are. (45 year old female, landscape
architect, married, no children)
of sustainability by saying that a good com-
mon house would reduce the need for private
spaces. The sustainability aspect, so prom-
inent in the discussion of heating solutions,
was conspicuously absent when it came to
the size of the houses.
Mutual Support of Sustainable Practices
Even though the discussion about the
material structures took up most of the
a ention in the early phases, in the long run
the daily practices of residents are at least of
equal importance in determining the relative
sustainability of co-housing. This topic
was only sporadically touched upon in the
discussion in Cluster 7, and mainly in the
indirect form of comments indicating that
some members, at least, were aware that both
technology and user practices are important:
Claus: there are results that show that together
with tra c, it is the individual emissions from
wood stove that are comparable [to tra c]
polluters, because people just put up an iron
stove and burn all kinds of rubbish, and they don’t
control it, and most of it just goes right out there.
And it really demands that you choose some good
stoves and have a decent culture, and that can’t be
controlled centrally, if that’s the way we choose to
go. (45 year old, joiner, married, no children)
What Claus was saying was that the daily
user context of a technology should be taken
into account when choosing between tech-
nologies. However, the group did not at any
point during the observation period address
the question of sustainable practices as
opposed to sustainable technologies.
In the eco-village survey, residents of
existing eco-villages were asked to describe
the advantages and disadvantages of living
in an eco-village in their own words. The
following answers were typical and indicated
that some residents acknowledged the
importance of social support in realizing the
ideal of sustainability and ‘green living’:
‘The fact that we can do a lot more together than
each could do on his own.’
140 m2. (50 year old female, nurse, married, three
Tine: We are up there too with 3–4 kids, so
we want to build 170 m2, 180 m2, and in two
storeys… (30 year old female, teacher, married, two
Niels: We want two storeys and there are four
of us, so we are above 150 m2. (30 year old male,
married, two children)
Hans: We plan on having more kids, and I need
to be able to work from home, so we need some
room, so we’re talking about 180 m2 in two
storeys… (40 year old male, engineer, married, one
David: But why do you need a workspace at
home when we are going to build shared office
space right next door? (45 year old male, biologist,
single, one child)
Birgit: He has to mind all those kids. (laughter)
(45 year old female, landscape architect, married, no
The desire for large houses was justified
with reference to the number of people in
the household. This was not challenged,
even though everybody in the group knew
that only the youngest of Else’s three sons
still lived at home, that Tine so far had only
two children, and that Hans and his wife so
far had only one child. David’s attempted
challenge of Hans’s declared need for office
space was interrupted and not resumed
within the observation period. This was
remarkable since the space requirements
of these families were actually forcing the
group to admit only eleven families instead
of twelve as originally planned (according to
the local planning regulations the built area
may only cover 35 per cent of the total lot)
which consequently made the economic and
practical burden on the remaining families
Later during the observation period, the
group spent a lot of time discussing whether
or not to build a common house in the begin-
ning of the design phase or later. Again,
nobody connected this discussion to the issue
luxury which residents ought to nd room for
in their own houses, while others argued that
freezers located in the common area are more
likely to be shared, thus saving energy and freezer
space in the long run. (Observation notes from a
meeting in an existing eco-village)
Our data thus partly support the claim
that co-housing, to some degree, furthers
sustainable routines and practices among
residents. Again, one of the most important
effects can be that it becomes legitimate in the
communities to discuss everyday practices
and potentially challenge and inspire each
other to more sustainable behaviour.
Including Small Households
As mentioned previously, the demographic
transition towards smaller households is an
important driver of increasing energy con-
sumption. Thus, co-housing could be a more
sustainable choice of housing for small house-
holds. This leads to the question to the
extent to which co-housing communities are
a ractive to one- and two-person households,
and to what extent the communities are able
to include these.
Based on the survey, table 1 shows that
42 per cent of the adult residents in the
eco-villages lived with spouse and children
and 9 per cent lived alone with children.
Thus, families with children were over-
represented in the eco-villages compared
with the Danish population in general,
where the equivalent figures were 27 per cent
and 4 per cent, respectively. One- and two-
‘To be able to emphasize sustainability and the
organic way of life and to reinforce each other in
the importance of that commitment.’
‘The opportunity to live in a reasonably sus-
tainable way.’
‘The organic way of life, that material goods are
not top priority, the fact that we live surrounded
by nature, that we have animals, living with others
whose a itude to life is the same as mine.’
In one of the eco-villages studied, pros-
pective residents or interested members of the
public could download a fact sheet stating,
among other things, that:
Wastewater is separated in urine and other waste.
For that reason it is important to pee only in the
front part of the separation toilet. In order to keep
the sand lter working there are restrictions as
to what should be ushed down the toilet or the
This community chose alternative technol-
ogies (separation toilets, sand filters etc.) that
demand certain practices from users in order
to work properly and to fulfil the promise
of sustainability. The technologies provide
the community with a legitimate reason to
control even very intimate habits of the resi-
dents. In a similar way, the existence of
shared facilities such as freezers, laundries
and kitchens give the residents occasion to
discuss these matters:
The group discussed the question of residents
buying freezers and placing them in the common
storage area. Some felt that freezers are a private
Table 1.Household composition in eco-villages (Marckmann, 2009). Figures for Denmark based on
Statistics Denmark (2011) Table FAM122N (
Number % %
in Denmark
I live alone 101 20.7 24
I live with spouse/partner without children 107 21.9 33
I live alone with one or more children 42   8.6   4
I live with spouse/partner and one or more children 207 42.3 27
I live with others 32   6.5 12
Total 489 100 100
that this group has a significantly lower
level of income and education compared
with people living with others. Among
adults between 30 and 60 years old, 30 per
cent of those living alone are not employed
compared with 12 per cent for other house-
hold types, and 18 per cent of those living
alone are on early retirement compared with
5 per cent among other households types.
Co-housing communities, on the other hand,
are mainly populated by residents with a
high socio-economic status (i.e. well-edu-
cated, reasonable income and a high level of
employment within especially public-sector
jobs). Thus, a considerable proportion of
those living in one-person households may
lack the economic or social resources needed
to fit in and be accepted into a co-housing
community (cf. Bouma and Voorbij, n.d.;
Williams, 2008).
Based on the available data, it is not pos-
sible to conclude which of these explanations
is most plausible – or whether, perhaps,
the answer is a combination of them all.
Nevertheless, it is important to note that
small households are not a homogenous
group. Some are young while others are old,
and some are well off while others have a low
income. Therefore, if co-housing is pursued
as a strategy targeted at one- and two-
person households, it is important to take
into account the variation within this group
related to age and social status. Thus, the
environmental benefits related to a widow
or widower who moves from a detached
house and into a co-housing community
with terraced or semi-detached houses are
in general much greater compared with a
young adult moving from a two-room flat in
a block of flats. Also, the different groups of
one- and two-person households may ask for
different kinds of communities with different
kinds of location (e.g. urban versus rural),
social organization (e.g. hierarchical versus
egalitarian), ideals for the balance between
the private and the communal etc.
person households, conversely, were under-
represented in eco-villages with 21 per cent
of adults living alone and 22 per cent living
with spouse and no children (the national
figures were 24 per cent and 33 per cent,
Apparently, the eco-villages are not
attracting many one-person and, especially,
two-adult households, but do, on the other
hand, appear to attract more than their share
of single parents. There can be at least three
possible explanations of this.
The first concerns the age of the communi-
ties. Most of the eco-villages studied here were
comparatively new. The oldest communi-
ties were founded in the 1970s, the newest
were still taking shape at the time of study.
Given that new communities attract many
families with young children, these families
will naturally be over-represented in the first
generation of the communities’ existence,
but eventually a demographic transition will
take place and the composition will come to
resemble the one prevalent in the general
population. When the children grow up and
move away, presumably the parents will
stay in the communities, now as one- or two-
person households.
The second reason can be that the eco-
villages are not attractive to the small house-
holds. Those same qualities which attract
families with young children may do the
opposite for singles and childless couples,
who enjoy an easier mobility. Often located in
suburban or rural areas, eco-villages do not
offer as varied a range of cultural activities or
opportunities for meeting new people as can
be found in the city centres. Recent research
on housing preferences shows that young
singles predominantly want to live close to
the city centres (Kristensen and Andersen,
2009). Also, the community activities such
as common meals may be seen as too child-
The third explanation can be that commu-
nities tend to exclude small households. A
recent study of one-person households in
Denmark (Gram-Hanssen et al., 2009) shows
a corollary of the co-housing format. The
explanations for the particular way this
question was handled (or not handled) in this
case study may include group dynamics. The
families wanting big houses were among the
most active group members, and challenging
their desires might potentially cause tensions
in the group. Also, the idea that more space
is always desirable is a strong cultural ideal.
The discussion of housing size has also to be
seen in the context of how individual families
live their life. In Denmark, it is common for
grown-up children to keep ‘their’ room in
their parents’ house for years, even though
they only use it for occasional stays and for
storage of old items. Thus, challenging the
couple with two grown-up sons on the size
of their house would mean that they would
have to tell their sons to book a guest room
in the common house when they came home
to visit them. This shows that the choice of
joining a co-housing community or, in this
case, an eco-village does not necessarily
indicate an alternative set of values to the
‘social mainstream’; or, in other words, a
commitment to sustainability does not
exclude attachment to individualism, com-
mon expectations of living standards, etc.
Unfortunately, data on the exact sizes of
houses in Danish co-housing communities
and eco-villages are not available. However,
earlier studies suggested that Danish co-
housing communities are typically built as
semi-detached/terraced one- or two-storey
houses (McCamant et al., 1993). Detached
houses as well as blocks of flats appear to
be relatively uncommon among Danish
co-housing communities in general. There-
fore, it seems that on average Danish co-
housing is smaller and denser compared
with detached houses, but less compact than
blocks of flats.
Similarly, the question of the environmental
aspects of everyday practices was also not
discussed by the group of prospective eco-
villagers during the observation period.
The quote about wood stoves indicates that
controlling individuals’ behaviour was not
This section summarizes the ndings from
our study of Danish eco-villages with regard
to the four potential environmental advan-
tages of co-housing. The main analytical
question is whether our study supports the
general assumption that the organizing form
of co-housing enables a more sustainable way
of housing and living?
With regard to sustainable technologies,
the social organization certainly enables
(and forces) residents to be actively involved
in decisions regarding the technologies built
into their homes. However, the case study
suggests, at least in the case of communities
building their own homes rather than retro-
fitting existing buildings, that there is a risk
that the discussions of alternative solutions
might take up an amount of energy and time
out of proportion with the actual advan-
tages of choosing the best technology,
especially as the degree of energy efficiency
(e.g. insulation) of the houses and the daily
routines of the residents might in the end
be more important for the total energy
consumption of the community. The question
might be raised as to whether the group in
this case study could have saved themselves
time and trouble by getting expert help.
Communities subscribing to a specific set
of principles, such as Permaculture, might
indeed have an easier time making such
decisions. This group, which did not have
any such prior collective agreement, did in
fact at one point decide to call in an expert,
but this only led to renewed discussions of
which expert would be the right one, what
type of expertise was needed, etc. However,
as our case study concerned eco-villagers
establishing themselves in a new settlement,
it is likely that this type of discussion would
be less dominant in other types of co-housing
(e.g. co-housing in existing buildings in urban
As for the assumption that co-housing
residents live in smaller and denser houses,
our study illustrates that this is not necessarily
co-housing in urban areas (and particularly
in larger cities) is probably more attractive
to these types of households than rural and
suburban eco-villages.
Table 2 summarizes the four sustainability
claims of co-housing and our main findings
from this study.
On a more general level, the study shows
that eco-villagers fail to bring the general
increase in consumption through increasing
standards of comfort and convenience into
their discussions. The consumption growth
gradually outweighs the gains from in-
creasing energy efficiency, which is the main
reason why the Danish residential energy
consumption has been constant (and not
been falling) during the last three decades
(Christensen et al., 2007; Røpke, 1998). The
failure to bring the general growth in con-
sumption into focus was most evident in
relation to the prospective eco-villagers’
discussion of the floor space of their future
homes; as already pointed out, the eco-
villagers in many ways reproduced the same
ideas and aspirations for large space as is
representative for most other homeowners.
And even though the size of the homes
might in the end prove more decisive for
the final carbon footprint of the community
than the choice of heating system, these
ideas and aspirations are not challenged by
the eco-villagers. It is remarkable that these
seen as being within the group’s power.
However, the quotes from the survey of
established communities indicate that it is
possible to challenge each other’s behaviour
from a sustainability angle, and thus make
it easier to realize pro-environmental be-
haviour in a community setting. On the
other hand, it must be kept in mind that the
residents of eco-villages and other co-housing
communities are self-selected by what is
probably the most sustainability-aware
segment of the population. And while these
individuals may find support for their
behaviour by living in a community with
like-minded persons, this concentration of
committed individuals potentially means that
they are not making their influence felt in
other contexts such as residents’ associations,
local politics etc.
With regard to attracting small households,
our study shows that couples without
children and people living alone are under-
represented in these settlements. Whether
this is because the eco-villages (unintended)
exclude these people or whether eco-villages
are not attractive to them is difficult to
determine. Nevertheless, it can be concluded
that this specific type of co-housing does
not provide an answer to the environmental
challenges of declining household size. Again,
there are presumably important differences
between different types of co-housing, as
Table 2:Summary of the four sustainability claims and main findings from this study.
Sustainability Claim Findings of this Study
More sustainable technologies Cohousing format furthers active involvement with technology.
built into houses Risk that choice of technologies takes up disproportionate amount
of time/energy
Smaller and more compact houses Strong cultural ideals working against small/compact houses.
Explicit focus on the importance of housing size from beginning
of the design process is needed to counter this.
Mutual support of sustainable Co-housing format seems to challenge and inspire individuals’
everyday practices everyday practices.
So far, dedicated, self-selected individuals dominate in co housing
– uncertain how it would work in broader population.
Environmental advantages So far, one- and two-person households without children are
for one- and two-person households under-represented in eco-villages.
Having this in mind, other evidence indicates
that Danish co-housing communities are in
general smaller and denser compared with
detached housing in rural and suburban
areas. Thus, it is likely that co-housing is
more energy efficient than typical detached
single-family houses, but less efficient than
traditional blocks of flats where most flats
share walls with two or three other flats.
Thus, the relative environmental advantage
of co-housing regarding living space and
building density is limited.
Also with regard to whether co-housing
can help people support each other in achiev-
ing more sustainable daily routines, the results
of our study are equivocal. While the case
study of prospective eco-villagers shows that
the question of pro-environmental daily prac-
tices was almost completely absent from group
discussions, the survey results partly support
the assumption that pro-environmental
routines are part of the discussions in estab-
lished co-housing communities (e.g. in rela-
tion to use of alternative technologies such as
composting toilets). Thus, co-housing appears
to create a space for discussion and mutual
support and control of individual residents’
daily behaviour and routines.
While co-housing supports the choice
of more sustainable technologies and to a
limited degree also more sustainable every-
day practices and smaller and denser build-
ings, our findings do not indicate that
co-housing is successful in attracting small
households. Therefore, co-housing does not
(yet) seem to play a role in mitigating the
threat to sustainability from the demographic
trends towards smaller households. Our
study highlights the importance of distin-
guishing between various types of small
household. For single parents, the eco-
villages may be attractive, but they may lack
the social and economic resources required to
live there. For others, such as young singles
or couples, the eco-villages may be located
too far from city centres to be attractive.
These differences should be taken into
account in possible future policies focusing
prospective eco-villagers, who are supposed
to be particularly interested in environmental
issues, did not succeed in addressing the
underlying growth in resource consumption
in their design of their future eco-village
Co-housing is o en seen as a sustainable
alternative to traditional housing. However,
the analysis in this article adds nuances
to this and shows that the answer is not
as straightforward as presented in much
of the literature. On the basis of a study of
eco-villages in Denmark, we have discussed
four key questions related to the supposed
sustainability bene ts of co-housing. In the
following we will summarize what can be
learned from this case study.
The choice of more sustainable technologies
appears to be the most important and direct
advantage of co-housing. Thus, our case study
supports previous findings that co-housing
communities are more motivated to and
capable of installing and experimenting with
technologies like solar power or composting
toilets. The social organization of the co-
housing community creates a shared space
for detailed discussions about technology-
related questions. However, our case study
also indicates a tendency to focus more on
new and visible sustainable technologies
rather than more inconspicuous solutions
like thermal insulation. Thus, there seems to
be blind spots with regard to the discussion
of technology and sustainability.
While the eco-villagers succeed in address-
ing the question of sustainable technologies, it
is less evident that co-housing provides better
opportunities for smaller and denser housing.
Our case study shows that this is certainly
not a simple outcome of the co-housing
format and that it is highly influenced by
the general cultural norms and ideals of
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... Previous studies have found that inhabitants in ecovillages, also known as ecovillagers, have a lower environmental impact and stronger social support when compared with the broader society [12][13][14]. Most prior research on ecovillages has been through case studies, and few have used large sample sizes. ...
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Decarbonisation is an essential response to the threat of climate change. To achieve Europe’s net-zero 2050 climate targets, radical technological and social changes are required. Lifestyle changes for reducing greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions are an important component of complex systemic transformation. The typical behaviour of inhabitants in ecovillages is potentially more conducive to sustainable lifestyles than the current European standard lifestyle. This study explores the potential of ecovillagers' lifestyles to contribute to decarbonisation using the Multilevel Perspective (MLP) theoretical framework. The research data were obtained through the model tool EUCalc and an online survey of 73 ecovillage residents in 24 European countries. The results indicate that current ecovillagers’ lifestyles, regarding home, consumption, diet, and mobility, would continue to produce 40% fewer emissions per capita than the standard European lifestyle by 2050. The study identifies which ecovillage behaviours would produce the largest reductions in per-capita CO2eq emissions if adopted by society more broadly.
... The continuous increase of floor area per capita experienced in industrialised countries is a hidden driver of emissions from the built environment at the construction and the operation stage (Lamb et al. 2021) Local authorities have an important role to play in the metamorphosis of housing by proposing communal spaces to be shared (Marckmann et al. 2012) through urban planning and land use policies (Newton et al. 2017). This can encourage intergenerational cohousing as well as interactions between people with different social backgrounds (Williams 2008) or spark the establishment of sufficiency consultancy services to citizens (Spangenberg and Lorek 2019). ...
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This report continues the science-based approach of linking concrete changes in lifestyles to measurable impacts on climate change in order to keep with the 1.5-degree aspirational target of the Paris Agreement on climate change. The 1.5-degree lifestyles approach examines GHG emissions and reduction potentials using consumption-based accounting, which covers both direct emissions in a country and embodied emissions of imported goods while excluding emissions embodied in exported goods. It analyses lifestyle carbon footprints of ten sample countries, representing high-, middle-, and low-income countries, and identifies hotspots, or consumption domains with the highest impact on the environment. The report also fills the knowledge gap arising from most prevailing climate scenarios that underplay the potential contributions of lifestyle changes to climate change mitigation and focus entirely or mainly on developing new technologies and on changes in production. For each country in the report, the footprint gap between current and sustainable target levels are determined for the years 2030, 2040, and 2050. To bridge these gaps, options for reducing footprints in each country are introduced, estimating potential impacts from various adoption rates in each country. Finally, two scenarios are developed for each country, one focused on systems change and another on behaviour change, showing indicative pathways for achieving the 2030 target.
... Del mismo modo, no solo se observa una sostenibilidad social y económica en los modelos cohousing, sino también ambiental, como bien indican Tummers (2015) y Marckmann et al. (2012). Al ser proyectos de gran eficiencia energética y respeto por el medioambiente, que limitan los impactos generados por la misma construcción, así como en su ciclo de vida, se podrían enmarcar en el beneficio del "Bono Mivivienda Verde" promovido por el Estado peruano en donde se facilita la adquisición de viviendas que incorporen criterios de sostenibilidad en su diseño y construcción. ...
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The problem of housing dissatisfaction positions the city of Lima as the last place in Latin America and the Caribbean; only 55.7% of Lima residents say they feel satisfied with their home. The objective of the research is to determine the socioeconomic viability of the Cohousing model in Lima as an alternative to the traditional real estate offer in the face of the current problem of dissatisfaction. Representative surveys have been used to identify the factors that influence the purchase intention of a home, focus groups were conducted to assess qualitative aspects of cohousing, presenting it as a competitive model, and a comparative economic-financial analysis was carried out regarding a traditional multifamily housing project. The results of the research confirm the viability of the cohousing model in Lima by recognizing a public interested in its economic and social benefits. The model could open new opportunities for change and innovation for the real estate market, as well as the possibility of formulating new housing programs by the State.
... Other studies focus on motivations that are somewhat less pragmatic in nature, and represent more ideologically or politically informed considerations, such as ecological awareness, the struggle for gender equality or the post-capitalist transformation of urban space (e.g. Marckmann, Gram-Hanssen, and Christensen 2012;Vestbro and Horelli 2012;Chatterton 2016). ...
Intentional sustainable communities (ISCs) are commonly described as micro-based community initiatives that seek to develop sustainable lifestyles with low environmental impact. More recently, they have been analyzed as laboratories for the emergence of innovation, namely social innovation, and as actors that can contribute to sustainable transitions. This reinforces their role as pressure agents and as microscale communities of practice. Theoretically, it is argued that this scalability of innovation dynamics requires a multi-level and multi-actor perspective, mechanisms of reciprocity and that actors are not isolated and atomized. These mechanisms, such as networks, are crucial for the dissemination of sustainability practices and for increasing their potential impact. This article argues that these communities can also be important micro agents in achieving Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) and to mainstream the importance of scaling their innovation practices. To this end, the study uses quantitative data from a survey applied to the ISCs in Europe. The data corroborates the communities’ contribution to the SDGs, namely to SDG12, SDG13 and SDG16 and presents the collaboration network structure established within these communities.
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The environmental impacts of the UK's domestic sector must be lowered if they are to meet UK government greenhouse gas emissions (GHGs) reduction targets. However, government initiatives to lower domestic GHGs have had little success, and progress has been too slow. Given this lack of top-down impetus, it is worth investigating alternative housing solutions. Previous research has shown that shared living - in which residents share spaces, resources, and social time - tends to have lower environmental impacts than the average household. However, this issue has not yet been explored within the UK. There is also research which shows that social networks can be effective in encouraging practice transitions and maintenance. This has not yet been thoroughly investigated within the context of shared living and environmental sustainability. This research aimed to explore the practices and infrastructures which enable pro-environmental outcomes within shared living. This aim was achieved through in-depth research in six shared living case studies. The research mainly adopted an ethnographic approach, complemented by quantitative measurement of GHGs. This research shows that the shared living case studies have significantly lower GHGs than the average UK household. This builds upon previous quantitative environmental evaluations of shared living. In studying practices, infrastructures and social networks within shared living, this research identifies four types of sharing that are significant to pro-environmental outcomes: shared ideals, shared governance, shared materials and spaces, and shared endeavour. For each type of sharing, the findings describe and analyse how processes of negotiation enable and constrain pro-environmental practices and outcomes. By exploring these processes, this research generates new knowledge on how and why shared living can produce lower-than-average domestic environmental impacts. Thus, the research demonstrates the potential and the mechanisms by which shared living may offer environmentally sustainable housing solutions for the UK.
To further Renewable Energy Community (REC) development, support is needed to build their capacities. Institutional hurdles and barriers stemming from the fossil fuel-based energy regime need to be alleviated, and the energy system needs to open up for the uptake, acceptance or breakthrough of the RECs. Evidence suggests that so-called “intermediaries” form a part of the solution in addressing these issues. Although intermediaries can be different kinds of actors including governments themselves, in this chapter it is argued that non-governmental actors are most effective in performing the intermediary tasks due to the nature of this work. This work asks intermediaries to bridge dividing lines and try to overcome institutional inertia to which governments are often prone. The chapter presents an analytical framework on the various roles and strategies intermediaries can employ to support RECs. It addresses the question: What strategies, roles and activities of intermediaries represent an effective support structure for the further development and upscaling of RECs?
Co-housing is an umbrella term for a wide variety of housing clusters with a high degree of residents’ involvement in the design and management decisions. This chapter argues that co-housing can also be seen as energy community in the EU renewable energies directive definition as self-organised groups of households around an energy-related activity. First, a classification of co-housing in the Dutch context is made. Selecting representative case studies, the study then analyses the typical features of co-housing as intentional communities related to the energy performance of housing. The findings suggest that re-thinking the engineering of domestic utilities provides instrumental functions for energy transitions. The conclusion summarises how approaching co-housing as an energy community can contribute to the objectives of the Clean Energy Package.
Behavior change towards sustainable lifestyles such as adoption of renewable energy technologies is a significant element in the fight against anthropogenic climate change. Increasingly, private households can be observed to take up different renewable energy technologies; however, the introduction of these technologies is not accompanied by a broader adoption of pro-environmental behaviors, as recent studies have shown. At the same time, group settings and social capital seem to promote the uptake of wide-ranging sustainability measures. Six case studies were conducted among different sustainable community projects in Germany to shed light on why and how broad sustainability transformation in such settings comes about. Findings suggest that successful implementation of wide-ranging sustainable measures and changes in behaviors in community settings result from motivations that originate from an interplay of social needs, social capital, social norms, and environmental concern. Strong environmental attitudes, not among all, but a critical mass of members and key individuals are necessary. The desire for community and other motives, along with social influence and social norms push individuals with low environmental concern to participate in sustainable endeavors.
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We discuss work that is underway in the EU Framework 6 project MATISSE to develop the science and application of Integrated Sustainability Assessment (ISA) in EU policy-making. Many problems in the urban environment are persistent and intractable in nature, or wicked problems. Energy inefficient building stocks, growing energy, water and resource use, social exclusion and growing household numbers on limited land are complex, structural issues – deeply rooted in, and reinforced by, patterns of behaviour, technologies, infrastructures and social institutions. They make housing and communities in the UK unsustainable, environmentally, socially and economically. We focus on systemic shifts, or transitions, as an analytical framework for understanding these types of persistent problems, and aim to simulate the complex, dynamic processes within and between the different levels – niche, regime, and landscape – of societal systems. Using our empirically and theoretically based conceptual framework, we have developed a general modelling tool, which draws on agent-based modelling, as well as behavioural and economic theory, and explores the dynamics of and the barriers to transitions. Here we use this tool to explore the possibility of a transition to sustainable housing and communities in the UK. We look at the interdependency of institutions and infrastructures including the mainstream and 'green' building sectors, planners, house owners and other actors, and explore how the housing sector regime has created various types of lock-in, which stifle large-scale innovation. We review the current unsustainability and map it onto the transition framework. We then present two plausible future narratives for the housing sector: in the first climate change and energy are addressed in a top-down manner, and in the second a broader sustainability agenda is addressed both top-down and bottom-up. Finally, we take steps to tailor our general model to this case study.
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Much policy effort focuses on energy efficiency of technology, though not only efficiency but also user practices is an important factor influencing the amount of consumed energy. This paper will explore to what extent energy efficiency of appliances and houses or user practices are the more important, both for understanding why some households consume much more energy than others, and when looking for relevant approaches to a future low carbon society. The paper uses several sources to explore this question, including results from the researcher's own projects, review of other studies and national statistics. Through the presentation of these different projects and examples it is shown how user practices are at least as important as the efficiency of technology when explaining households' energy consumption. The paper concludes that more research in this field is necessary. In relation to energy policy it is argued that it is not a question of efficiency or practices, as both have to be included in future policy if energy demand is actually to be reduced.
We know that in many Western countries a growing number of persons live alone in one-person households even though the majority of the homes are built for families. This may represent a problem in several ways: On one hand it implies increased housing consumption as well as increased energy consumption as those who can afford it chooses to live alone in big houses or apartments. On the other hand there may also be a social problem associated with living alone, if less wealthy singles are obliged to live in less attractive dwellings compared with people living as couples that typically have two incomes. This paper discusses international studies of the so-called second demographic transition, understanding the conditions behind the growing number of households with one person. The literature review was supplemented with studies on the consequences of energy and resource consumption of people living alone. We then focused on Danish historical data on the social and demographic background for why there is a growing number of persons living alone. Next follows a presentation of one-person households in Denmark: A database comprising the complete Danish population was used to describe the housing conditions of people living alone in comparison with the general population of Denmark. These analyses included the relevant socio-economic background variables as well as relevant housing data. The objective description was supplemented with a subjective assessment of how people living alone perceived their own life situation compared with how others perceived their own life. In the conclusion we raised the question of whether new types of co-housing could be made attractive for those living alone – and thus provide a both more resource-efficient and socially accommodating way of living, compared with forming a one-person household.