Another glorious sunny day, another successful Suvana workshop with home-made lunch on the balcony at Mole Architects – we’re beginning to think this project is blessed!

On Sunday, 24th March, fifteen members had a great day, exploring the K1 Marmalade Lane cohousing project in the morning, and then after the lunch working on what we had learnt from the visit and how we might reflect this in our future development.  

Marmalade Lane is the first co-housing development in Cambridge, and was completed a few months ago. At Suvana we are fortunate that two of our Board members – Shubhanaga and Ian Collins – were involved in making Marmalade Lane a reality.

The visit to Marmalade Lane was both inspirational and educational. Project Architect Shubhanaga and Ian led us around the complex, showing us the external areas, the common facilities and one of the houses.

Back at Mole, duly enthused, we broke into two groups to share our thoughts and feelings about the K1 project. There were a lot of things we found very positive, and some that we could learn from. Of the many positives the superb facilities of the common house (communal cooking and dining; kids’ room; shared laundry), the evidence of a vibrant community (residents out and about, positive community atmosphere, active notice boards, several working groups); and the design of the houses (comfortable, high sustainability, energy efficient, state-of the-art ventilation, plenty of light) were highlights.

Interestingly, the discussions brought up many aspects that would need to be balanced. For instance, the design of the open gardens encourages a real feeling of community, but how might this impact the desire for privacy in your garden from time to time? Equally, what is the balance between a modern look versus an urban/industrial design; a spacious versus cosy feel in the common house; or the desire to be part of the local community versus the need for security for children etc.

Another interesting observation was how much our thinking has developed even in the short time that Suvana has been formed. There were many positives at K1 that we didn’t even mention (until we realised our error!) because we were already assuming that they were givens – things like car parking on the edge of the site; the ample covered bike parking, allotments and composting facilities; and the sustainable design.

Following these interesting discussions, revived by a cup of tea (it was a long day!), we explored some more practical issues, such as how service charges were managed; how the resale value of houses were impacted (or not) by a cohousing model; and what the legal framework for freehold/leasehold properties might be.

And finally we had an update on the Board’s activities since the last meeting, which included working on a planning pre-application for a potential site and establishing ourselves as a legal entity (company limited by guarantee) so that we can have our own bank account etc.. There was also a recognition that we need to improve our communications for members, and a sub-group was formed to explore options.

Huge thanks to Shubhanaga and Ian for the tour, residents of Marmalade Lane for hosting our visit and Mole Architects for hosting the workshop.

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